In the four years since Sweden’s Sabaton rebuilt itself, the power metal icons have not only survived, but flourished. The 2014 release of Heroes, which focused on individual heroes, seemed particularly apt and poetic. It became one of the band’s most celebrated releases, helping vault them further up the metal hierarchy. After recording Carolus Rex in 2012, three members of Sabaton left the fold, leaving vocalist Joakim Brodén and bassist Pär Sundström to rebuild the band. Guitarists Chris Rörland and Thobbe Englund along with drummer Hannes van Dahl joined on to round out the new line-up. This summer, guitarist Tommy Johansson replaced Englund.
With Sabaton’s newest release, The Last Stand, the band focuses on famed final defensive battles. Among them the Battle of Thermopylae, made infamous in pop culture through the movie 300, as well as the Battle of Shiroyama, also immortalized in pop culture in the film, The Last Samurai. Before the album’s release, the record had already yielded three hit singles; “The Lost Battalion”, “Blood of Bannockburn”, and the aforementioned, “Shiroyama”. The Last Stand is among Sabaton’s most cohesive and impressive records to date and this week Metalholic caught up with frontman Joakim Brodén to talk about the new record as well as the tenth anniversary of the band’s sophomore album, Attero Dominatus.
The Last Stand is perhaps your strongest and most diverse album to date. Did you approach this album any differently than your previous efforts?
“Not really. We just try to write as good of songs as we possibly can. I do think you have something there with diverse though, because I think when we did the previous record, Heroes, it was the first album with the new line-up. We kind of had to prove—we didn’t think about it at the time—but looking at it in retrospect we kind of stayed too hard within the confines of Sabaton there. We really wanted to prove that Sabaton could still be Sabaton with a different line-up. So we came into this a little more relaxed and that’s why I think we see a bit more diversity on this album. It’s because of all the experiments and diversity that was supposed to be on Heroes was locked up until now.”
The growing success of the revamped Sabaton line-up has to have given you guys more freedom to be creative.
“Oh yeah. It also shows the strength of the guys coming in as well. Not to in any way disrespect our old band members at all, but you know, we were not the top musicians in town. We were sitting there drinking beer as teenagers, listening to the same music. I mean, everybody could play an instrument somehow. I got in as the keyboard player originally, and they said you’ll sing until we find a singer. [laughs] I guess they’re lazy. They still haven’t found one. So it kind of grew from there. In 2012, when people started having kids and didn’t want to go on the road all the time again, we were a pretty established band in Europe, so getting a musical upgrade was not really that hard to be honest. So it’s a good thing that we’ve been constantly improving over the years musically. I think it’s also a nice thing, at least for me and Pär, it felt like everything got a fresh start. We could get somebody who is really excited into the band. Hopefully, Tommy, who just joined us, can bring that again to us.”
Tell us a little bit about the concept for The Last Stand and how it came together.
“We had another idea for the album originally. We actually changed the theme of the album just a couple of weeks before it was supposed to be recorded. It’s an old idea we had for a couple of years to do something about last stands. The music…when we actually started having most songs ready, we realized this was a better fit for it. Once we started talking about last stands we realized we can’t stay in recent military history…the twentieth century as we always have done, except Carolus Rex of course. So the first thing that comes to mind when you think about last stands is probably the Battle of Thermopylae with Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, and Rorke’s Drift. Probably Shiroyama is going to be there as well as one of the most famous last stands in history. So already there we’re spread out over centuries, even millennia. And we’re already in Europe and Africa and Asia. So this is going to be diverse, not only musically…[laughs].”
If you could go back in time to be part of any one war or conflict, which one would it be and which side would you be fighting on?
“I’d go back to Operation Valkyrie and make sure that they didn’t fuck up on the bomb that was supposed to kill Hitler.”
Sabaton is such an explosive live band and you play on these huge stages in front of thousands of people with this massive stage show. Then you come to America and play on these small stages in small clubs before a few hundred fans. You have to adjust the magnitude of your mindset and your stage performances. How do you do that?
“I never thought about it, but I love it. Not every day is the same for us. Sometimes it’s a huge festival in Wacken with 70,000 people then there’s a club show in the U.S. that could be anything. I think the biggest headline show we did in the U.S. was around 1000 people or something like that. For sure it’s different, but I like it. Sometimes when we’re doing the big festivals, one thing I miss there, you know how we have the whole stage set; the tanks, the pyro, we have video production, and then of course there’s follow spots shining in my eyes, and the crowd is so far away because you have to make room for the guys with the cameras. It’s fantastic to be able to put on a show like that and everything with the pyros and video, but it’s kind of hard. You really have to struggle to connect with the crowd. On the other hand, give us any kind of medium size rock club in the U.S. you’ll be able to reach out and grab the crowd if you want. It’s a lot more fun and relaxed atmosphere. Of course you can’t stand there and pretend to be Mr. Big Shot anymore, but I have no real need to do so. I think it’s just fun to do jokes. I mean we take our music seriously, but certainly not ourselves.”
You can listen to the full interview with Joakim below. Sabaton will return to America this fall for a tour with Trivium and Huntress and you can find those tour dates here.