This time around with The Last Stand, Sabaton brings us another concept album as a follow-up to their latest release, Heroes. This time, the focus is on legendary “last stand battles,” where brave warriors were facing insurmountable odds. Some tell of miraculous victories, and others of crushing but valiant defeats. One such tale is that of the Spartan’s last stand at the Battle of Thermopylae, or of the Stand of the Swiss Guard during the sacking of Rome in 1527. The Last Stand was released worldwide on August 19th, 2016 via Nuclear Blast Records, and peaked at #63 on the U.S. Billboard charts, and #1 in the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden (Rock/Metal), and Switzerland. After a few listens, it became apparent just exactly why it was doing so well.
Being this is the band’s eighth studio album, they seem to have themselves pretty much figured out. The songs pretty much all follow the same Sabaton formula, with the driving force clearly being Joakim Brodén’s vocals and keyboards. The drumming, as it should be with all things battle themed, is fast and powerful, serving as the marching pace for the entire album. While there is nothing necessarily groundbreaking about the album, “more of the same” coming from Sabaton is still always very well done more of the same. However, the theme is very fitting to them and served to make entire album have a cohesive flow to it.
Let’s face it, when all you write about are war and battles, things might eventually get a little stale. Sabaton is not the absolute greatest when it comes to deep and complex lyrical themes, but what they do excel at is creative and catchy lyrics, and that is where The Last Stand stands it’s ground. Coupled with the anthemic melodies, you’ll be catching yourself singing along, looking for a battle of your own in no time.
Although the lyrics obviously take more inspiration from the movie 300 over any textbook, it’s a fantastical tale that serves as a symbol for the bravery and perseverance of the soldiers that came to the defense of Sparta in Ancient Greece.
“Morning has broken, today they’re fighting in the shade
When arrows blocked the sun they fell,
Tonight they dine in Hell” – Sparta
If there is one thing Sabaton is good at doing, it’s making sure everything they do is of high production quality. From their spot-on live performance to their studio albums, and even their live DVDs, they just always seem to sound perfect. I wouldn’t believe it unless I saw it myself, and their music translates perfectly in the live setting. So when I sat down to listen closely and judge the album based on the actual sound, I was not surprised at all that it came out perfect. To me, no instrument felt left out or overpowered, each sitting at the right level. It also passes the car stereo test with flying colors (and pizza sauce). The album was engineered, mixed, and produced by Swedish musician and producer Peter Tägtgren (Sabaton, Amorphis, Children of Bodom, etc.) at Studio Abyss.
The art for the album is very Sabaton. Where else do you expect to find a Samurai, Spartan, a Hussar, and infantrymen in an photo together?
The booklet itself comes with the lyrics to all of the songs, with unique art fitting each of the battles described. Alongside each page of lyrics is a description of the battle and soldiers who the song is about. That may be my favorite part of it, getting to read a description of what the inspiration was.
The album also features a few notable guest appearances with Iced Earth guitarist/songwriter Jon Schaffer performing a spoken word piece on “Diary of an Unknown Soldier,” and Nightwish/ReVamp vocalist Floor Jansen appearing under “additional choir.”
The last stand is an ode to those with their back against a wall, unwilling to surrender in the face of certain defeat, and could easily stand it’s ground next to any other piece in their discography. It took a few listens for me to really appreciate the stories told, but it grew on me with every listen.
The Last Stand is one that grew on me more and more as I listened to it over the last few days. The catchy choruses, the pounding war drums, and exhilarating stories should be enough to hook any fan of historic battles. If you want to hear three of my favorite tracks from the album, scroll down below. I give The Last Stand a respectable 3.5 World War I era tanks out of 5.
The Last Stand