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Sabaton - "The Last Stand" (CD)

Sabaton - "The Last Stand" CD cover image

"The Last Stand" track listing:

1. Sparta
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
9. Shiroyama
10. Winged Hussars
11. The Last Battle
12. Camouflage (Stan Ridgway Cover)
13. All Guns Blazing (Judas Priest Cover)
14. Afraid to Shoot Strangers (Iron Maiden Cover)

Reviewed by on September 7, 2016

"'The Last Stand' is exactly what you would expect, so if you are a fan you cannot go wrong even if the mix is a bit odd and the over the top keys get a tad annoying."

Gather round children for the latest tales of warfare, grenades, heroes and, of course, tanks. The Swedish war machine Sabaton is back with all tales from history where the men who fought were facing “The Last Stand.” You would think that after eight albums of essentially releasing the same material it would get stale. However, like with German vampiric werewolf doppelgangers Powerwolf – it seems we cannot get enough. Even if you have no interest in Sabaton, I dare you to try to stand still during a live show. I feel comfortable in my metal cred in saying that Sabaton is second only to Iron Maiden in energy and overall performance. “The Last Stand” is exactly what you would expect, so if you are a fan you cannot go wrong even if the mix is a bit odd and the over the top keys get a tad annoying.

At the risk of sounding like the proverbial already written review, Sabaton really has but two types of fans: the rabid super fan ready to fangirl at every show and salivate at every release and those who have zero interest in what comes across as happy metal glorifying acts of unspeakable horror. It is not an uncommon thing to have a metal band plucking events out of history, but Sabaton has a niche that is uncompromisingly infectious. “The Last Stand” is undeniably a very good release with the usual bombastic chanting choruses and way over the top tinny/flimsy keyboards, even if it sounds a bit like reorganized melodies from past material. They have the uncanny knack of repackaging the same material and making you believe it is fresh and new – a quality very few bands can master.

That all sounds very negative, but the truth is “The Last Stand” presents material that will just be killer in a live setting. I can imagine chanting crowds in the opener “Sparta” and bursting out the huge chorus in “The Lost Battalion.” The album’s best track is the hard charging “Hill 3234,” a more modern tale than the usual World War II subject matter. This tells the story of the Soviet/Afghan conflict that took place from January 7-8, 1988 when 39 paratroopers repelled 10-12 attacks from 200-400 Mujadeen. The song presents the heaviest riff and sports one of the coolest choruses. “Winged Hussars” is another of the best tracks, though again – you cannot help but hear parts of older songs throughout. Iced Earth fans will recognize Jon Schaffer’s narration in “Diary of An Unknown Soldier.”

“The Last Stand” clocks in at a very swift 37 minutes, so even if you aren’t a fan, the torture won’t last too long. If you plan to pick up the album, do yourself a favor and get the limited edition digipak featuring the bonus track covers of Stan Ridgeway’s "Camouflage,” Judas Priest’s “All Guns Blazing” and Iron Maiden’s “Afraid to Shoot Strangers.” Sabaton covers are always pretty special – they tend to take the classics and slap the battle armor sound around it to make it uniquely their own. In fact, “Camouflage” turns out to be one of the best songs of the release.

Incidentally, if the sound of the “drums” in “The Lost Battalion” is a little programmed compared with the rest of the album, it was deliberate. In fact, they are not drums at all – but the sound of 50 caliber machine guns. Speaking of sound, the overall mix is a bit odd – with the keyboards really blocking out the guitar in many parts. It seems to have the same production team as the last few, so go figure.

There is nothing on the “The Last Stand” that you haven’t heard before. It’s a collection of war hymns that are catchy and fun. They will be presented even better in a live setting with crowd interaction, but such is the same with all Sabaton songs. The band is built to play live, which accounts for the endless touring. Sadly, “The Last Stand” is also the last stand for guitarist Thobbie Englund, who has since left the band following the 2016 installment of Sabaton Open Air. His energy and humor at live events will be sorely missed.

Highs: Bombastic choruses and catchy melodies - a Sabaton staple.

Lows: The songs sound like reorchestrated and restructured melodies of earlier material.

Bottom line: Tales of history's "last stands" are recounted by Sabaton, even if you've heard it all before.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)