Sabaton - The Last StandFew people know this about me, but I am fascinated by war. I wouldn’t call myself a “buff” by any means, but I have done my fair share of research on the topic. In particular, my interests lie with the American Civil War. A fascination sparked by my family history. My mother’s side founding Manassas, Virginia and fighting alongside neighbors and friends within the ranks of Mosby’s Raiders. My father’s side hailing from Michigan and fighting for the infamous Iron Brigade. This fascination with the Civil War is due to the my interests in the politics that led to the war, the strategies that ended the war, and the bravery of the soldiers who did the fighting. But, inevitably, each time I delve into military history, I think of my grandfather and his time in World War II. Including that horrifying story he told me as a child. The one that found him and his men cut off and ambushed in the Philippines. They made a stand but only my grandfather and a fellow soldier survived the gunfire.

So it seems fitting that Sabaton‘s newest album, The Last Stand, would focus on some of history’s greatest “last stands.” And the album’s musical and songwriting strengths make it difficult to ignore the images of my family holding their lines, fighting for their brethren, and persevering—sometimes against all odds—so they may live another day. This is why I love Sabaton. Ever since Carolus Rex, this band has captured my imagination. Their riffs and vocals are powerful, and they’re greater storytellers.

The Last Stand is not a concept album like Rex, but it is an quality album just the same; filled with everything from the Battles of Thermopylae, Bannockburn, and Rorke’s Drift, to the Battle for Hill 3234. Sabaton unleashes just the right amount of emotion and passion on each song, giving them a uniqueness appropriate to the different stories. And so the album begins with “Sparta”—perhaps one of the greatest “last stands” of all time. It’s a typical Sabaton opener chock-full of crushing riffs, a strong chorus, and deep-chested “hoo haas” sure to please any live audience. It may not be the best track on the album (it also suffers from the weak follow-up, “Last Dying Breath”), but it does a fine job of setting the mood.

From here, we roll over some of the most fun shit I’ve heard all year. “Blood of Bannockburn,” “Winged Hussars,” “Hill 3234,” and closer “The Last Battle” have the catchiest choruses this side of Blind Guardian. “Blood of Bannockburn” is fucking rock ‘n’ roll and its bagpipe-soaked riffs are both cheesy and upbeat (in the best way possible). The latter is one of the simplest, yet most effective, ditties the band has ever written. The passionate chorus and staying power alone are worth the journey. “Winged Hussars” gets its fun character from its groovy keys and a climactic final chorus that falls only to “Hill 3234.” “Hill 3234” digs deep into its inner Rage and delivers one of the best vocal arrangements of the album. It even supplies a build structured around fist-pumping chants buried behind the wall of riffage that reminds me of Metallica‘s “Creeping Death.”

Sabaton 2016

But the band is not without its signature melodies. “The Lost Battalion,” “Rorke’s Drift,” and “Shiroyama” all drip with emotion. At a little over three minutes, each song delivers the goods without overstaying their welcome. The latter two have fist-pumping choruses and their stories fit the music perfectly. After the Jon Schaffer narration of “Diary of an Unknown Soldier,” the band transitions smoothly into the most emotional track on the album. Unfortunately, the title track is standard Sabaton fare and it centers around some techno-like drumming that distracts from the story.

We may never get Carolus Rex, Part II but who gives a shit? Especially when you get a short, straightforward album like The Last Stand. It even has more chops than 2014’s Heroes. The subject matter will have you flipping through Wikipedia pages for the next week and the powerful vocals of Joakim Brodén will have you thanking god you aren’t deaf. “Last Dying Breath” doesn’t quite work and tracks like “The Lost Battalion” and “The Last Stand” are quite typical, but this record delivers. Give Carolus Rex rest, settle into the history stacks of your local library, and enjoy this.


Rating: Very Good!
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: sabaton.net | facebook.com/sabaton
Releases Worldwide: August 19th, 2016

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  • Ronnie James

    I am quite disappointed by this album and really turned off by that heavy amount of Europesqe-Keyboard-lard all over it

    • Reese Burns

      The vocals are what do it for me. Too many rrrrolled rrrrrs.

  • I feel like the war gimmick is getting stretched pretty thin.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I think they went the smartest possible way lyrics wise with this album. At this point its clear all they ever will sing about is either war or Metal, and after releasing a thematic album about heroes (cleverly titled “Heroes”) they were faced with the dumb temptation of following it with an album named “Villains”. So instead of potentially ruining their career by releasing an album chock full of songs about Hitler, Stalin and such other repulsive assholes, they decided to do a thematic album about last stands. So it’s about war, it’s thematic, it’s about heroes, it’s a triple whammy.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I think they need to be a bit more clever for future releases. I think this one worked better than Heroes, but you are right. It is getting thin.

      • The Metal Pigeon

        Hmm…. see I’m not sure I’d agree with you there. I think a lot of people missed a lot of the details about the Heroes album lyrically. Namely that almost all of its songs were about non-violent acts of heroism in the face of extreme danger / life and death situations. Some were humanitarian (“Hearts of Iron”), others about decency and civility in wartime (“No Bullets Fly”) and courage in giving aid to others (“The Ballad of Bull”). There are other examples on the album (in fact the only song about direct violent resistance is “Resist and Bite” if I recall correctly).

        Point is that I thought that was an entirely fresh approach to their historical bent on songwriting. They’d spent many albums before singing about battles themselves, but on an album called “Heroes” they decided to focus on historical individuals that made sacrifices or risks in far more peaceful ways. That certainly counts as a different approach right?

        This is a band very into history, just as someone above mentioned Nile being very into Egyptian mythology. I can’t figure why one gets a pass while the other doesn’t. What are Sabaton supposed to shift too? Tolkien? Personal relationships? (for real?). Eh, I dunno, I don’t think The Last Stand was on the same level as Carolus or Heroes, but as for their themes being stretched thin, these are still interesting lyrics being sung in these songs recounting some fascinating historical moments.

      • Miguel Laurito

        *worse

    • Here’s Johnny

      That is like saying, ‘When will Nile stop singing about goddamn Egypt?’.

  • Diego Molero

    Where are their legs!?!?

    • El_Cuervo

      Good banter tbh

  • Jozo90

    Just a heads up, you have put this in German metal and not Swedish.

    Anyway, this album is great. it’s exactly what you expect from Sabaton.

    • Fixed! Damn Germans….

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        Thank you sir.

      • Col_Dax

        Heyheyhey – sentenced to binge hear Doros discography for three days in a row!

        • André Snyde Lopes

          The pain!

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Oh dammit. My mistake. Was reviewing a German band at the same time.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Sabaton… a band that kicks so much ass they are named after an armored shoe.

    • madhare

      Or they’re named after the shoe because they’re such a stinky wet sock?

  • Col_Dax

    Hoping, this is really better than heroes. Clearly, as Doc stated, we’ll never get a Carolus Rex II, as we’ll never get a MOP II. But Heroes was weaker than his predecessor in just any way.
    Nevertheless, one of most sympathetic and hard working bands and such a great live act. If only my fellow german countrymen could quit off this silly “Noch ein Bier” bullshit…

    • Ronnie James

      The whole live act is silly (and each “spontaneous joke” is rehersed)

      • Col_Dax

        Yeah, you make a point here. But despite the fact that their shows are pretty much scripted reality, they give you a great deal of party time. But this doesn’t mean necessarily to get Joakim boozed up ASAP and the ongoing effort by the crowd to so so is just pubertal at best…

      • flaming_froghurt

        It used to be different when they weren’t as big and playing small venues. Joacim was very spontaneous with the crowd (that’s where the “one more beer” stuff originated) and you could even shout a song and they would play it despite it not being on their setlist (they only had half the amount of songs back then, of course).

  • Does he roll his R’s when he talks too? Really that’s a little distracting on almost every chorus. Otherwise this kicks ass.

    • Jozo90

      It’s the way people are talking where he’s from. North swedish accents really love to roll the R’s!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Rolled R’s are more warlike.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I think it’s the worst on “My Dying Breath.” Some of the reason I dislike that song.

    • [not a Dr]

      I thought he was trying to sing with a Scottish accent. There is even a keyboard solo that sounds like it could be played on a keytar…

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    As a bonus track for this album they covered Judas Priest’s “All Guns Blazing” and apparently (from what I can hear) they did the only reasonable thing to do in order to do justice to Rob Halford’s voice in the original opening line: They sampled it.
    Anybody can confirm it?

    • flaming_froghurt

      It sounds similar, but I think it’s actually someone else with a voice in a similar range to Rob Halford. The whole song is actually a duet. But I don’t know who is singing alongside Joakim. It’s not a bad cover.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Besides the bagpipes, “Blood of Bannockburn” also has a really nice Hammond solo. And being the Hammond freak I am, of course I have to mention it.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Yeah, I was gonna mention that, but you and I are big fans and others think it sounds like shit. But now it’s out there anyway!

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Who in their right mind would think hammond’s sound like shit!?!

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I will just have to repeat it… Who in their right mind would think Hammond’s sound like shit!?!

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          I’m with you dude.

    • Sjarlatan

      I’d rather have a Clarkson solo.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        What’s a Clarkson?

        • El_Cuervo

          He was making a Top Gear (The Grand Tour?) joke.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I really had no clue what he was talking about…

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    Hinestly, this might just be Sabaton’s most boring album ever

    • I completely agree. I loved Carolus Rex. It was in my top 5 for 2013, and gave Heroes a pass because of the massive amount of lineup changes. But this album has the right sound, the right theme, the mix is OK, yet, I just cant find anything about it that grabs me. Its like somehow, this band has become a cookie cutter copy of itself. Maybe I should shelve this one and come back to it in a couple of months.

    • Óðinn

      And that’s not an easy feat to achieve. Impressive.

  • Noobhammer

    As being a HUGE Sabaton mark since Primo Victoria, I feel like this is one of their strongest albums, behind Carolus (as I doubt few will dispute is their best work).

    “Winged Hussars” is one of my favorite tracks, next to “Shiroyama”. I feel like you can’t have a Sabaton album without an anthem to Polish fighters, though I may be biased due to my Polish ancestry.

    Amazing review Dr!

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Thanks muchly. I agree, sir. And that Polish heritage bleeds into my kids’ blood as well, so it has a special oomph here too.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Witold Pilecki sure earned a place in History as a true Hero. The song about him on “Heroes” is one of the highlights on an album that mostly consist of a highlight after another.

  • Nahuel Benvenuto

    i dont know what to think about this band, they made a GREAT album with Primo Victoria and then they just made the same song over and over again, i didnt even bothered to listen to any other album complete of them of how repetitive they are

  • Siege Bantayan

    We need more bagpipes in metal.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    This is really good. Maybe more aimed to pull in the masses, but it sure is hookier than a rapala!

  • RuySan

    Did they plunder Max Cavalera’s wardrobe?

    • Óðinn

      Seemingly.

  • Bagpipes, hammond organ? Absolutely! Unfortunately, the embedded track sounds too goofy to take seriously.

  • flaming_froghurt

    I’ve been a huge Sabaton fan since the early days, and to be honest, each new album since “Carolus Rex” bores me more. I feel like I’ve heard the exact same melodies and choruses a few times before. The early albums had something eye-opening for me, where you were surprised by each song and thinking “fuck yeah, this is great!” But the latest albums are just more of the same for me, without that special something.

    I suppose it works the other way around, too; if you get to know the band with one of the newer albums and work your way backwards through their discography. I have a feeling that the last two albums are liked more by people who got into the band with “Carolus Rex”.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I am the type of person you described in your second paragraph. I can’t get into their early stuff but enjoy the second half of their catalog.

  • madhare

    I’m among those who don’t get the hype about Sabaton at all. They’re cheesy and embarrassing in the Manowar-way. Not to mention repetitive! To quote a certain website review of their Coat of Arms, written by some dude named Stiil Drym or something: “From album to album and track to track, Sabaton is rehashing one limiting theme without variation”.

    It’s starting to be a bit like that annoying piper in Eluveitie, which makes all their songs sound the same.

    Interestingly Carolus Rex is a truly great album! But it seems to be exactly that because it’s Sabaton doing something else than their normal Sabaton clichés. Listening to their “normal” stuff, it’s almost hard to believe that Carolus Rex was made by Sabaton.

    • Gaëtan Baratin

      Go see them live. I think their performance on stage is what made them so successful.

    • Reaching waaaay back for a Stiil Drym quote – I like it!

    • Here’s Johnny

      All metal is cheesy, thats what makes it so good. Classic Manowar is awesome.

  • Fuzzybunny

    Ah, hell… I’ll probably buy it, but I don’t think I need it…

  • Wilhelm

    Sabaton bores the life out of me, generic riffs, bland songwriting, unspectacular vocals…In Sweden they headline/host a festival which Morgana Lefay played. When I heard that I though to myself “who the hell would take Sabaton over Morgana Lefay and how in the hell did they get so popular as to have a festival named after them?”

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Ok, I’d take Morgana Lefay over practically anyone.

    • herrschobel

      humans like dumb things….oh and war…

    • Here’s Johnny

      ‘unspectacular vocals’, you seen the new Pain video? Guy is powerful as fuck.

  • Sjarlatan

    I dunno about this one. It’s good, but I’ve heard it all before, and all the songs are so short and simple, it only takes a few listens to get into the album and a few more to get tired of it. I wish they would go back to do at least a few 5-6 minute songs per album.

  • Jan Humhej

    Very catchy. Unfortunately it lacks any balls. Sabaton at this point are just redoing what they did, it is just more diluted. They are playing it safe, not evolving in any way. Which I guess is something that does not matter to fans who caught on later in their carreer. But to us who are fans since Primo Victoria, I think a lot of us will be underwhelmed by this record. I agree with one reader here who mentioned “Europesqe keyboards” all over the album. I might be wrong, but that is my initial reading on the record after first spin. The war gimmick and the same old sound…its getting old.

  • Dead1

    Sabaton has crushing, powerful riffs? These guys are completely gutless and soaked in enough cheese to drown a plague of rats.
    If these guys were an army they’d be some third rate Iraqi conscript division surrendering to American bulldozers in 1991 or a 1940 French unit running away at the rumour of German tanks (yup that actually happened).

  • Dethjesta

    I don’t think they’ll ever make a record as good a Rex (which as a 17th century reenactor, I adore) but I thought heroes was superb and from what I’ve heard and read I’m going to love this one too.

  • Jason

    I listened to a few tracks yesterday because of the positive buzz this has been getting, but I’m still on the fence.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Sabaton’s a band I feel kind of conflicted about. They seem like I should be in love with them – well respected, high class power metal, but for some reason, I’m never able to find their music (aside from Carolus Rex) to do anything for me. I try to listen, and I just get bored. Weird.

    • flaming_froghurt

      Iced Earth has the exact same effect on me.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        I can rarely make it all the way through an Iced Earth album, but the best of compilation they released – “The Blessed and the Damned” is perfection.

  • Jose Martin Alvarez

    I don’t know if it is because I am an old guy who got introduced to metal in my teens during the 80’s and I grew up admiring Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Accept and Helloween among others, but since I discovered Sabaton I can’t have enough of these guys and their sound, plus the history-related war songs (a la Iron Maiden) are amazing for a guy that loves epic heroic tales of war. Every new album from these guys is an adventure with familiar sounds and new stories. I respect the opinion of everyone here, but I find this album anything but boring. The great riffs in Rorke’s Drift, the bagpipes in BannockBurn and the tragic notes in Shiroyama and Sparta… all great Sabaton. It’s so unfortunate that in their US tour they are not the main act.. they should be! BTW, anyone knows who does the high vocals in the great JP’s “All guns blazing” cover?

  • Johan

    Sabaton recently announced that they’ll be touring with Accept as openers… Let that one sit with you for a while. That just sounds wrong to me.

    • Here’s Johnny

      Accept have not toured the UK(Rest Europe) properly for a long while, Sabaton on otherhand have built up a big following.

  • Anch0r

    Hmm, been following Sabaton since someone introduced me to Attero Dominatus and Primo Victoria wich were right in my alley. The release of “the Art of War” mostly exceeded my expectations, but was followed by some more generica. But then Carolus Rex came along and set a new high, especially the swedish verions hits some emotional tangents I cant hear int their english songs. But it’s hard to get too excited about the following realeses, maybe the last stand trumps heroes in some way but on the other hand its mostly variations of the same themes (in music and writing),with a few gimmicks.

    Feel their live performance gone a bit awry also, the last show I went to had wondering why they weren’t playing songs for the money I paid for entrance instead of goofing around with minesweepers and other stuff…

    Ratina 2013 was gold though!

  • Sean Murray

    I’ve just listened to it and I think it’s their worst album. I hate to say it but I think they’re running out of decent material. Was ok with Carolus Rex, the others are all excellent.

  • Anton

    This is no Carolus Rex indeed. Boring and repetitive song structures, wikipedia-pasted lyrics, and annoying keyboards.

    Also, I went to see them live in London a few months ago: crappy sound, and boy-scout stage antics with rehearsed “jokes” all over. What a letdown. ;(

  • AnnieK13

    I absolutely love Rex but otherwise have not been able to get into this bad.

  • Jason Haworth

    For Just discovering Sabaton this album in my opinion is one of the best. one my favorite songs is Camouflage From the lyrics to the awesome drum beat.

  • Miguel Laurito

    I feel like if this is getting a very good but you’re giving Will to power a 2 you need to lower this one. The last stand haves overdone production, excessive keyboards and overall lack of new ideas. Heroes was better.
    I compare this with AE’s Will to power because both have a decent song (here it is Hill and in WtP it is First day in hell)