• More of the same - A review of Sabaton's ''The Last Stand''

    Sabaton - The Last Stand (2016)

    Sabaton is one of the most polarizing contemporary metal bands. I've met people who described the Swedish quintet as the successors of bands such as Iron Maiden ten years ago already and I still have friends who have bought all their records and attended numerous concerts. I also know angry opponents of this band that claim that Sabaton repeats itself constantly and that they don't really play authentic heavy metal but bland epic rock for drunk festival visitors. As always, the truth lies somewhere in between both points of view. Sabaton is too one-dimensional to be considered the successors of legendary innovators such as Iron Maiden and purchasing all of their records is definitely only recommended to extremely faithful fans. On the other side, many of the haters are simply stated jealous of the band's popularity which is a recurring issue in this scene and fail to realize that Sabaton has a clear concept for a specific fan base and has never claimed or tried to be anything else.

    The band's new output ''The Last Stand'' is plain average. Some tracks certainly have some power like the liberating ''Last Dying Breath'' or the heavy bonus track ''Camouflage'' that should have made it onto the regular version. A few songs have short, entertaining and atmospheric passages like the bagpipe sounds as well as the duel between keyboard and guitar solos in the album highlight ''Blood of Bannockburn'' or the darker keyboard vibes in the intense ''The Lost Battalion''. The band manages to write short and consistent songs without any length which is a rare strength nowadays. The historic themes may be predictable but I salute the group for getting many young metal fans interested in these important topics and stories.

    On the other side, the band is clearly running out of ideas again and fails to truly surprise at any moment on this output. Some of the numerous epic topics would have requested a more atmospheric, epic and progressive song structure but the band simply delivers a dozen exchangeable tunes around the three minute mark. It's also inappropriate that some of the songs about quite gruesome battles aren't just martial and full of bland pathos but disturbingly joyful and at times patriotic like the simplistic ''Shiroyama'' or the exaggerated ''Winged Hussars''. One must also admit that the fanfare keyboard sounds are overused to a point where the band almost sounds like a self-parody sounding like a mixture of Alestorm without the drunken humour and Manowar without the cringeworthy megalomania.

    In the end, the generous live album that comes along with most of the numerous special editions is at times more interesting than the actual studio record which is brief yet concise and entertaining yet unspectacular all at once. Sabaton is a band that is best enjoyed live or during a drinking game where every participant has to pick a stereotypical word and drink a shooter as soon as the word is sung until the winner is the last person able to get up and put the new record back in its case at the end of the game. Fans will adore this release and haters will continue to despise the band anyway. Any potential new fan shouldn't start with this release and rather go for the band's debut release or one of the numerous live releases. In my book, ''The Last Stand'' is just plain average.

    Final rating: 50%

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