Establishing their name in metal comes war-themed power metal band SABATON, with their eighth studio album, The Last Stand. After the success of their previous album Heroes, the newcomer has a lot to contend with but whether it will is the real question.
Kicking in the album with their much favoured keyboard synth sounds is Sparta, as an opening track, it doesn’t hold the strength that should really grasp your attention when turning a new album on for the first time. It’s readable and lacks originality, even from a band that has a unique sound to their name. Last Dying Breath consequently feels the same, however it holds that firm and stable sound that SABATON fans love.
One of the biggest things that make the Swedish power metal band stand out is that they’re catchy and whilst their topics aren’t the jolliest, they have a quality of being upbeat. That is what Last Dying Breath does, it is standard sounding and isn’t exciting, but it has the quality of being able to get you moving. Blood of Bannockburn does the same, with the exception the band have pushed the boat out and incorporated bagpipes to the mix.
The use of bagpipes in Blood of Bannockburn is easy listening, they’re not over-used as they sometimes can be, it adds a nice twist to the style of SABATON, it suits them well. It is definitely one of the strongest tracks on the record, one of the ones that will make you miss recently departed guitarist Thobbe Englund also. The guitar work in the track is outstanding and elegantly executed, showcasing the talent and hard-work that goes into the band, despite what can be the repetitive sounds.
The Lost Battalion resembles, once again many other tracks from the Swede’s, however this one in particular leaves you feeling like you’re listening to an older track and not a brand new one. It lacks originality and really does show the weakest point of SABATON. Whilst their sound is spot on and can really hit home, there is a lack of any new direction.
Rorke’s Drift joins the list, alongside title track The Last Stand. It’s unfortunate that it has to be continuously pointed out but if it’s been heard before on previous albums, then there isn’t much to go off. There is one track on the album that brings back a bit of spice to the sound, Hill 3234 resembles the sound of the band closely but it shows that they can delve into their more creative side whilst not straying too far from their roots. It’s a shame that they hadn’t been able to stick to this throughout.
Unfortunately straight again, it goes back into the lack of originality, especially as Winged Hussars kicks in. The sound is all too notable, and whilst every track on the album was similar, they didn’t feel as replicated as Winged Hussars does. Closing the album on the other hand is The Last Battle.
The track is upbeat, catchy and one that will probably be the most remembered on the album, each SABATON record has an anthem and this is The Last Stand‘s. It’s got the ability to get you feeling included and wanting to belt the lyrics out alongside recognisable front-man Joakim Brodén. Whilst it’s one of the better tracks, it should not have been left to the last song to pick the album up.
It’s not that The Last Stand is a bad album, it truly isn’t. It’s a SABATON album, but it’s that at most; the band have so much more in them and 90% of the album feels replicated. It’s not to say that the songs aren’t good or catchy, but when putting out a new album after such a strong predecessor, it has expectations to live up to and unfortunately this did not. It’s catchy, vibrant and everything fans of the band love, but when a new album is expected, you expect new material and not different variants of previous tracks.
For such an outstanding band, more was expected and they didn’t live up to that, they have so much more potential in them and somewhere along the line, it was unfortunately missed.
The Last Stand is set for release August 19 via Nuclear Blast Records
For more information on SABATON like their official page on Facebook