The Last Stand
19th August 2016 – Nuclear Blast Records
02. Last Dying Breath
03. Blood of Bannockburn
04. Diary of an Unknown Soldier
05. The Lost Battalion
06. Rorke’s Drift
07. The Last Stand
08. Hill 3234
10. Winged Hussars
11. The Last Battle
Ah Sabaton. Is it fair to suggest they are one of the biggest metal bands in the world right now? They certainly have the cred to back that up. They have their own festival and their own cruise, and they work harder than pretty much anyone else, touring pretty much constantly and doing a ton of promotion. Their themes seem to ring well with audiences as well; who doesn’t love a good war story? And their signature metal anthem “Metal Crue” can’t hurt either. Formed in 1999, they didn’t release their first album Primo Victoria until 2005. Since then they’ve been fairly consistent, and this year marks the release of their eighth studio album The Last Stand.
While their core sound hasn’t changed much over the years, there is still a sense of progression throughout their discography, particularly in the way they arrange the sounds and use melodies – however, the melodies and arrangements on The Last Stand seem almost like Sabaton going back, looking at their older songs, and re-imagining them through the eyes of their more mature and experienced selves.
Their chorus melodies have always been great, and The Last Stand makes no exception. Joakim Broden has more than enough charisma to deliver dramatic lines about The Swiss Guard making a last stand in the Vatican (“The Last Stand”), how the last of the samurai stood against a far superior force (“Shiroyama”), or the alliance of American and German troops at the end of WWII (“The Last Battle”)
Despite their sound not really changing, on the last couple Sabaton albums there is usually one song where they go somewhere completely different. On Heroes that was piano piece “The Ballad of Bull”. On The Last Stand, that song is “Blood of Bannockburn“; a rocking track that features bagpipes, a major key, and some Hammond organ sounds straight out of Deep Purple’s arsenal – and goddamn is it fucking awesome!
The keyboard tones are super cheesy, going back to the sound of early works like Primo Victoria and Metalizer, only with higher quality guitar and drums than back then though, carrying the palpable power of the last couple albums. Meanwhile, Broden is as charming as ever, managing to pack more charisma into one song than many singers do in a lifetime; it’s hard to imagine the band being where they are without him at the helm.
So what’s wrong with this album? Nothing, really. It’s a Sabaton album. Most people know what to expect from the band by now. Sabaton aren’t going to change their tune at all. It would be interesting to see a bit more innovation, but that doesn’t really matter. A couple of songs do feel a bit generic – “Hill 3234” and “Rorke’s Drift” are a bit forgettable – but the pair don’t do much to detract from the album overall.
The Last Stand is yet another solid entry in Sabaton’s veteran career. It won’t surprise anyone with a brand new direction, but it will please fans, and there are enough interesting moments that keep them from getting stale. Highlights include “The Last Stand” “Winged Hussars” and “Shiroyama”. The ‘return-to-the-roots’ sound works better for them than it does for most bands, and their melodic sense is always fairly sharp. The Last Stand should be another hit for the band. Keep on singing those war songs, guys.