Released: 2016, Napalm Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Catching up to big brother Sabaton! Civil War, the Swedish five-piece formed by the departing members of Sabaton in 2012, are back again, ready to march onto the battlefield with their banners raised high. Carrying on the tradition of war themed lyrics and high intensity, the band may have presented us with their best release so far. The Last Full Measure, the album title likely deriving from Abraham Lincolns Gettysburg Address (seeing as the band seems to have a thing for… you guessed it, the civil war), impressed me far beyond my expectations. This album combines all that which fans of Civil War has previously learned to love and appreciate, and the final product is spectacular in many ways.
The first song “Road To Victory” opens in a strikingly similar fashion to “USS Monitor” from Gods and Generals. Not to complain at all though, the fast paced and aggressive intro to the album works well and instantly engages the listener from the first moment. The immensely enjoyable twin guitar solo leaves me wanting more, and the band delivers time after time.
“Deliverance” shows that the band is able to sound heavier than before, and it also takes on the important lyrical theme of slavery in the US. “Tombstone” is without doubt the best song on the album, and probably my new favorite song from the band. With a funky bassline and a carnival-like melody during the verses, before transforming into a fast paced monster, this song was immensely entertaining, and I would be deeply disappointed if it doesn’t become a live staple. If Civil War has taken on the same tradition of Sonata Arctica (from Stones Grow Her Name and onwards) to include a “joke” track on every album, it certainly suits them well and I look forward to hearing more similar material from them.
“America” and “A Tale That Should Never Be Told” both show the band taking short brakes from the sweat producing intensity of the opening tracks, including slowed down piano sections, accompanied by either delicate guitar play or enjoyable vocal melodies. “The Last Full Measure” doesn’t quite top the title track from their previous album, but is a great song nonetheless.
Favorite tracks of the album include “Road To Victory”; with its’ catchy chorus and astonishing twin guitar solo, “Tombstone”; arguably the most fun I’ve ever had listening to Civil War, and “Gladiator”; a fast paced riff-fest and thrill ride. This album has great production throughout, no instruments suppress others, and the vocals work well with the rest of the instrumentation. The pacing also works great, and I was not left feeling bored at all while listening.
It’s hard to listen to any release from Civil War without being reminded of Sabaton; whether it’s the similarly themed lyrics (and in this year’s case, similarly titled album), or the rather unusual vocals for the power metal genre. Whereas Joacim Broden’s deep singing voice has appealed to a large audience, Civil War vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson’s style seems to be more of a hit or miss for a lot of people. To be honest, it took a while for me to accept Johansson’s nasal, almost squeaking voice, and whereas parts of Gods and Generals sounded unintentionally hilarious due to this (the line “it’s time to invade!” from “Bay of Pigs” comes to mind), The Last Full Measure manages to showcase his vocal abilities from a far more flattering side.
If there is one final thing that should be praised, it’s the overall musicianship presented in this album: Rikard Sundén and Petrus Granar perform some of the best lead guitar play I’ve heard in power metal in years, managing to be aggressive yet remaining melodically uplifting. Daniel Mullback’s drumming is spotless, and Daniel Mÿhr takes me back to the glory days of Primo Victoria and Attero Dominatus with his inventive and exceptional keyboard playing.
Since HammerFall revived the genre in the 90s, there has been a horde of bands perfecting the practice laid out by the godfathers of power metal in the 80s. It is now safe to say that Civil War has joined these ranks, being a band with loads of potential to push their own music and the genre in a positive direction.
The Last Full Measure was consistently entertaining to listen to, and provided plenty of reasons for me to revisit it later. Having clearly emerged victorious from the battlefields with this release, Civil War is long overdue to enter the radar of a larger audience of metalheads. Dare I say that Avantasia’s Ghostlights now has a worthy challenger for power metal release of the year? All hail the Swedish Metal Generals!
Review by Torbjørn 'Toby' Jørstad