Album review: Sabaton - The Last Stand
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★★★★☆ When speaking to Sabaton co-founder and bassist Pär Sundström last February, he teased that, much like in their 2014 effort Heroes, “We have pretty much settled on tackling one topic for the next album […] There are a lot of song ideas, not so many completed songs yet.” Six months down the line, the band’s ideas have finally come to fruition. The Last Stand, Sabaton’s eighth studio album, is here and its “one topic” is exactly what it says on the tin. The entire record deals with historical, defensive battles: the infamous “last stands” of war. As apt as its title may seem, a better name for it would simply be The “Fuck Yeah!” album. Because that’s what its listeners are going to be screaming at the top of their lungs as they experience this new, visceral slice of unfettering power metal. The epic scale of The Last Stand is established astonishingly early with ‘Sparta’, which tackles the Greeks defending themselves against the invading Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae. In recent years, films like 300 have taken this topic from historical fact straight into the realm of epic myth, so having it open your album is an act that sets the bar extraordinarily high very early on. Even with that in mind, ‘Sparta’ smashes to success in what could be one of the most enjoyably grandiose opening tracks in heavy metal history. After an ominous, ten-second build-up, it pounds its way into existence with matching, slow-paced electric guitar chords and drum beats being accompanied by empowering synthesisers. Lead vocalist Joakim Brodén – as well as what sounds like an army of backing vocalists – breaks into deep, war dance-like chants. The first verse becomes much more subdued, but it only lets itself build to ‘Sparta’’s intense chorus. How this track was not chosen as a lead single, it is impossible to tell. While The Last Stand will go on to remain brilliantly strong throughout its runtime, nothing else on the album reaches the dizzying heights of its starting track. ‘Last Dying Breath’ keeps the momentum flowing, following the classic Sabaton structure much closer than its predecessor, before breaking into second single ‘Blood of Bannockburn’.
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