It's no secret that Wargaming is a friend to heavy music. The Belarusian studio behind World of Warships, World of Tanks and World of Warplanes consistently pairs high-flying guitars and bone-crunching drums with its impressively faithful recreations of the air, land and sea battles that carved through Europe and the Pacific in World War II. It encourages players to imagine an alternate history where the brave GIs on the front lines of Bastogne had access to Slayer records — which we're certain would've immediately turned the tide of battle for the good guys. Earlier this year, Wargaming enshrined their affinity for heavy metal more acutely than ever when they recruited Swedish power thrashers Sabaton to write a song about the Bismarck (fittingly titled "Bismarck"), which refers to the German battleship that's lovingly rendered in its muscular glory within the World of Warships ranks. Sabaton has made a career by writing kickass hooks about extremely specific moments of military history, and between Wargaming's world-class attention to detail and the band's artillery nerdom, this was a match made in heaven.
"We, as a band, had the story about the Bismarck for a long time, but had no good opportunity to write a song about it," says Pär Sundström, Sabaton's bassist. "It did not really fit into any of our latest album concepts, but together with Wargaming we saw an opportunity to release a song unbound to any album."
Sabaton have collaborated with Wargaming a number of times. You can even buy a custom-painted Swedish Centurion tank, which first appeared in the band's video for "Primo Victoria," via the World of Tanks shop. One of Sabaton's greatest strengths is their steadfast desire to get the facts right in their military anthems. There's a moment on "Bismarck" where lead singer Joakim Brodén recites that the battleship housed "2,000 men" and "50,000" tons of steel, which confirms that, for all the pomp and circumstance, Sabaton is putting in the archival research to make sure their music holds water.
"Stories of war and heroes has been told since before instruments existed, but we have definitely added our own mark to it and our own sound. To write songs like 'Bismarck' requires as much imagination as research," continues Sundström. "Since the few words that we can fit inside the lyrics for a four-minute-long song is so limited, we cannot tell so much about the history itself. It is more about transporting the listener inside the story and then let that person experience it the way they want, delivering an emotion. Facts are out there for any fan to find out — we try to help with the Sabaton History Channel."
Wargaming, for their part, are happy that they've managed to unite heavy metal with the literal heavy metal of warplanes, warships and tanks. Sabaton themselves have said that they routinely boot up the Wargaming catalog between shows and, honestly, it's hard to imagine a gaming franchise more conducive to hard-riffing excess.
"Though my glory days of moshing and a waist-length mane are long gone, I was raised on all the major cult heavies and I'm still a massive fan of the genre," says Artur Płóciennik, World of Warships' Executive Producer. "We went to see Iron Maiden at the kick-off for their European Tour last year with our Business Development Director and Deputy Development Director. Some of our guys went to see Metallica this year in Russia, while I flew to Prague and saw them there with guys from our European office. Sabaton is especially popular for us and our audience not just because of their epic sound, but because they're passionate about history and inject that passion into what they do — just like us. I'd been to a Sabaton gig before, in Paris, but being able to work with them directly, and even have a few beers together, has been awesome."
Clearly, there's a kinship between metal diehards and history buffs. Some of Iron Maiden's best songs are about the horrors of the battlefield, and Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister and Slayer's Jeff Hanneman were noted collectors of German military memorabilia. Warships and blast beats go well together.
"I do think that heavy music, by its nature and tone, can be a better fit to describe certain aspects of history than other music genres," Płóciennik says. "Specifically, in this context, we're talking about the history of human conflict, not say, economic history — a thing that is very emotionally charged by its very nature and which carries a specific tone that's deep and serious. Metal, with its roots in blues, also comes with similar deep and heavy tones, as people sought to express feelings of hardship, among other emotions."
One of those other emotions is excitement, and it will be exciting to see where Wargaming take their embrace of heavy metal next, whether it's with Sabaton or another hard-hitting band. The crossover has already proven its strength.