Sweden’s Sabaton is back with “The Last Stand”, its 8th studio album. It’s a record that finds the band stretching its musical vocabulary slightly while retaining the elements that made its sound. It’s arguably their best record yet, and their most consistent from front to back.
While “The Last Stand” is not a concept album per se, each song ties into the idea of armies making a desperate last attempt at victory. Sparta (think “300”), Samurais, Afghanistan, Serbia, Vietnam… this record will have you hitting Wikipedia to learn more about all these historical events. Who says you never learn anything listening to metal?
The huge singalong choruses are still there, but a song like “Blood of Bannockburn” (about the First War of Scottish Independence) adds bagpipes and Hammond organ, and, as it turns out, is their first song in a major key. When it was released as a single, the reaction was quite polarized with a section of the fans displeased by the classic rock influences and the happy feel of the track. But it still sounds very much like Sabaton, and I defy anyone to stay indifferent to its ultra catchy chorus. (Check out my interview with them for more on this).
Stand out tracks are the opener “Sparta”, “Winged Hussars” with its grandiose chorus, “Shiroyama”, the majestic “The Lost Battalion” and “Blood of Bannockburn”, but really there isn’t a bad song on the record. The deluxe edition adds a cover of Stan Ridgway’s “Camouflage” that unfortunately is the record’s weak link, and a wicked rendition of Judas Priest’s “All Guns Blazing”. The elusive earbook edition includes and additional bonus track, a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”.
Don’t pay attention to the haters: it sounds like vintage Sabaton, only better and more refined. If you like your metal bombastic, don’t miss “The Last Stand”.