It would be hard to say that Swedish power metal pioneers Sabaton are anything short of interesting. Their concept is simple: telling tales of wars from decades past through playing epic, heroic, energetic heavy metal. They progress musically each time they step forward to offer another journey back into the history books, where instead, if we look at previous album Heroes, it expands more than just story after story, but focuses with the theme of soldiers’ struggles – hence the name. This time around, the aptly named The Last Stand, offers a dive into famous ‘last stand’ battles, keeping the theme of war active whilst offering a particular emphasis. We like that formula, because we know the story they are trying to tell.
The Last Stand is structured in the most appropriate way for a power metal album to start – with a song like “Sparta” to offer that epic prelude-to-battle omen, outlandish synths included. Depicting scenes of the Spartan attack in Thermopylae, The Last Stand gets off to a very punchy start.
The album flows in an exactly Sabaton-esque way, where we can flash up in an entirely different battle after visiting a period in world history 2000 years before, and we still get the thunderous drum work, guitars playing wild tunes (and equally mad solos) and the operatic, larger-than-life vocals from Joakim Broden in the Sabaton formula. The songs on The Last Stand accentuate these ingredients exactly as we would expect. It’s just a matter of whichever your particular preference of the Sabaton experience is – because everything is there for your enjoyment. However, at times, it feels as though the album is like walking on a thin trail, where you may lose your footing briefly, before getting back on level ground and you’re able to continue. The last three songs of the album are particularly epic and make for possibly the finest consistent visage of beer-fuelled fist raising and devil horns.
All in all, The Last Stand is on the shorter side of Sabaton’s catalogue, where at times, we feel that the songs run their course in perfect time, and rarely does a thought ponder of whether songs like “Shiroyama” or “Rorke’s Drift” should go on any longer. The fact is, they shouldn’t as they are appropriate enough. Per song, we are served a very respectable and filling serving of Sabaton pie and we don’t necessarily have enough room for that last bit of crust.
Songs like “The Lost Battalion” and “Blood of Bannockburn” which use a unique idea of weapons as added percussive fire (no pun intended), are perhaps the more memorable songs on the album. They still don’t necessarily have that gargantuan approach of a “Swedish Pagans” or a “Ghost Division”, but these songs take time to engrain in our military-obsessed minds, so this may change in due course.
If you’re in two minds about The Last Stand, my advice is to just listen to it whether you’re a fan of Sabaton – or power metal in general – or not. It may not be the sharpest blade you want to cut your loin cloth with but it will certainly get a fine enough rip through the seams. You will get exactly what you expect with this, and nothing more.
2. Last Dying Breath
3. Blood of Bannockburn
4. Diary of an Unknown Soldier
5. The Lost Battalion
6. Rorke’s Drift
7. The Last Stand
8. Hill 3234
10. Winged Hussars
11. The Last Battle
Joakim Broden – Vocals/keyboards
Chris Rorland – Guitar/backing vocals
Par Sundstrom – Bass/backing vocals
Thobbe Englund – Guitar/backing vocals
Hannes van Dahl – Drums