Review Summary: “Today’s menu includes: Västerbottensost, Prästost and Sabaton.”
Do you know what ‘avant-garde black metal’ defines? What about ‘symphonic gothic metal’? With so many subgenres cropping up that dictates how a band should or should not sound like within heavy metal, one of the few genres that still retains its original implication is ‘power metal’. The clue is in the title- its music that is supposed to make you feel powerful and larger than life, uplifting music that unashamedly makes you swell up in pride, don your helm and ride into glory against all odds!
Sweden’s Sabaton belong to the power metal subgenre and in their near 17 year career, they’ve amassed a strong army of loyal fans with 8 albums to their name. Their latest conceptual album, “The Last Stand”, encapsulates everything about the subgenre they belong to. From the grandiose atmosphere and realistic lyricism that Sabaton create, they lead us to the barefaced supercilious façade that all power metal bands wear through a brief history of “famous last stands in warfare”.
Sabaton are a distinguishable band due to their focus on real warfare rather than fantasy, and their noticeable sound is just as evident as their debut was back in 2005. Each track on “The Last Stand” has its own personal punch but the marching riffs from ’Last Dying Breath’ and the turbulent ‘Rorke’s Drift’ announce that Sabaton are still using their strengths to their advantage.
However, Sabaton have drawn new battle tactics and enlisted a small array of other influences on this album since its predecessor, “Heroes”. Bombast and pomposity spew out from “The Last Stand” because glam is the most prominent weapon that they equip themselves with; but with it come both benefits and drawbacks. ‘The Last Battle’ is arguably the catchiest and most triumphant song on the album due to the simple, synchronised rhythms each musician plays. And yet, the simplicity of Hannes Van Dahl’s spacious drums and the unenergetic riffing makes ‘The Lost Battalion’ sound so languid.
Joakim Brodén is clearly in charge here. He has excellent talent at creating a clear commanding and fanatical tone to his singing and also at storytelling. In songs like ‘Shiroyama’ and ‘Sparta’ you won’t have to ask Google what battle corresponds to each song because he describes them so effortlessly in these songs particularly. The factual lyrics portray each battle with a creative intent and in a charismatic way. ‘Blood of Bannockburn’ also features suited instrumentation to replicate the lyrical description. In this song Sabaton use bagpipes to emphasise this Scottish battle that proves to be a riveting call-to-arms song. The only negative is that Joakim missed a cheesy opportunity to cry out “FREEDOM!”
Let’s face it, you know exactly what you’re going to get with a new Sabaton record: the most stirring history lesson you’ll ever have complete with a complementary cheese board of bombastic choruses, marching riffs, reflective keyboards and realistic lyrics. “The Last Stand” is no anomaly or curve-ball to this formula. The Swede's continue to gain victory after victory in their career- it’s just a shame that it’s the same kind of battle every time. One day they’ll think to change some tactics and win the war.