Enlightener of the year 2022
Enlightener of the Year 2022: Sabaton
The Swedish Skeptics Association (Vetenskap och Folkbildning) has awarded the Enlightener of the Year Award of 2022 to the heavy metal band Sabaton. Sabaton receives the award because they depict historical events in a fine and accurate way. They give their audience more information than can be contained within their song lyrics.
It is not unique to depict historical events in songs. However, Sabaton are aware that they are not historians and therefore rely on the expertise available to portray historical events as accurately as possible. They also understand that history is a subject where new discoveries may mean that what we know today can change. They convey their insights to their audience through the opportunity of in-depth study, both with detailed articles on the band’s website and through videos on their YouTube channel Sabaton History Channel. The album The War to End All Wars was released in 2022 and depicts the First World War from different angles – from the horrors of soldiers on muddy battlefields to the big political games behind the scenes. For many years and through several albums, the band has been getting people interested in history and to better understand history as a science in a way that no one usually expects from music artists.
Sabaton combines its artistic work with public education in a unique way. In a world where we are inundated with fake news and conspiracy theories, fact-checked information is delivered from the last place many would expect – a heavy metal band, says Pontus Böckman, President of the Swedish Skeptics Association.
For their efforts the band Sabaton receive the Enlightener of the Year Award 2022 and a monetary prize of SEK 50,000.
Sabaton was formed in 1999 in Falun, Sweden and has undergone several changes over the years in terms of band members. The band’s debut album Primo Victoria (2005) featured some songs about military historical events, and the album Carolus Rex (2012) was the first to be about a specific period in history. For the latter album, the band enlisted the help of Bengt Liljegren, an assistant professor of history. In early 2019, the Sabaton History Channel was launched on YouTube where the backgrounds to Sabaton’s songs are narrated, mostly by Indy Neidell who is a Swedish-American actor and documentary producer – a collaboration with documentary filmmakers TimeGhost.
In 2019 and 2022 respectively, the albums The Great War and The War to End All Wars were released which deal with the First World War from multiple perspectives and on different fronts. The lyrics often describe the horrors of war, not infrequently from the perspective of the soldiers, and are by their nature not complete accounts. But with extra material, such as episodes of the Sabaton History Channel, the songs are put into a context where the background to a conflict can be understood or where some light can be shed to the situation of a specific historical person.
Sabaton’s public education efforts are multifaceted. Their music is often about historical events that many people have not heard about. They go beyond what is expected of music artists to ensure that their lyrics are accurate, something even some journalists find difficult living up to. With extra material, they give their audience more information than can be conveyed with the lyrics of a song. In addition, they are not singing about the history of a single nation, but are presenting different perspectives, which is an important part of being scientific about a material.
By making it clear that they are not historians themselves but rely on experts, they demonstrate an insight that even academics sometimes lack, namely that of being aware of where the limits of their own knowledge lie. Interviews and extracts also show that history is a subject where our knowledge changes with new discoveries and we must be prepared to change our perceptions as new data emerges. This too is fundamental to all science.
Sabaton points out that history does not happen in a vacuum, but events must be put into context to become historical knowledge. An example of this is their albums on the First World War, that stretch from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to the Peace of Versailles. Finally, the heavy metal band Sabaton reaches many people who may not have been interested in history before. When the listener learns that the stories depicted in the songs really happened, it adds a whole new dimension to the music experience. If the listener chooses to learn more after an interest is sparked, Sabaton provides a good foundation for thinking about history in a source-critical and scholarly way.