I’ve been a huge fan of SABATON for years, to the extent that I would not review releases by them because I never felt that I could be totally objective. I recently had the opportunity to check out their new disc The Last Stand, available August 19 on Nuclear Blast Records, so I figured what the hell, hopped in my tank, and cranked up the stereo.
The album itself is predictable – SABATON specializes in war history-themed power metal, and they do it well. As always, every song is a musical Wikipedia entry on some battle, military figure, or war, and the subject material is interesting and inspires one to learn more about the events covered in each track. The individual musicianship is really good as well – Joakim Brodén’s deep, theatrical vocals sound excellent as always, the rhythm section of Pär Sundström (bass) and Hannes van Dahl (drums) delivers a solid performance, and the twin guitar attack of Chris Rörland and Thobbe Englund is tasty, especially on some of the solos spaced throughout the album.
Where this album comes up short is when everything is mixed together. It’s not bad; it sounds pretty good, actually, but when compared against the last several albums, it just isn’t up to the level of classics like The Art of War, Coat of Arms, and Carolus Rex. There’s a lack of imagination or inspiration that manifests itself in the rehashing of songs from those classic albums – on most of the songs, I found myself thinking “Hey! That sounds just like…” far too often, especially with “Shiroyama” and the obvious comparisons to “Midway” from Coat of Arms, or “Winged Hussars” flirtations with the classic track “Uprising”.
There are some innovations; they’re just few and far between. The bagpipes threaded throughout “Blood of Bannockburn” sound awesome, and “Hill 3234” evokes early SABATON without being too derivative, but it’s just not enough. Overall, it’s an entertaining album, but I’ve heard these songs before with different lyrics. I’ll still be excited to see them when they tour and I will be jumping with Joakim during their set, but I just can’t get too excited about this one.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Last Dying Breath”, “Blood of Bannockburn”, “Rorke’s Drift”, “The Last Battle”