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There was something markedly odd about the power metal climate circa 2007, where a number of new and arguably redundant projects were born and quickly died, while some existing projects found themselves in similar territory with sudden line-up shifts. One can particularly recount the short-live Uli Kusch project Ride The Sky after his exodus from Masterplan, a project that sounded nearly identical to said band, while Roland Grapow's ongoing collaboration in that band found itself with a radically different sounding lead vocalist in Mike DiMeo, formerly of Riot. Both of these projects turned out decent studio offerings that were met with mixed reactions by the metal community, and were subsequently scrapped. Civilization One seemed to have a great resemblance to that of Ride The Sky, being conceived by Chitty Somapala immediately following his departure from Firewind and oddly enough, sounding very similar to his brief collaboration with Gus G. on "Forged By Fire", and subsequently falling apart without a sophomore release.
However, after a couple of years of being on ice, Limb Music took an interest in Civilization One, and thus Chitty resurrected the project with some of the original lineup still in tact (though sadly without Secret Sphere guitarist Aldo Lonobile, whose guitar input pretty much rivaled Gus G's impressive chops) and with it came the already recorded yet unreleased follow up "Calling The Gods". At first glance, this little LP comes off as a bit rushed and shorter in scope than its predecessor, leading one to wonder if maybe the album had only been partially completed before being shelved. That isn't to say that the songs found on it aren't decent, in fact, this album does have a few catchy albums that stick in one's memory a bit more clearly than anything off "Revolution Rising", but as a whole it does feel a tad bit incomplete, thus it actually comes with some bonus material that further complicates the overall listening experience.
In a nutshell, this album is a straightforward reaffirmation of the slickly produced, guitar heavy with a dash of atmosphere character that tends to be heard on a typical Firewind album. The only area where it really differs is that Chitty's vocals have much more of a Ronnie James Dio character to them, as opposed to the general David Coverdale worship that comes with Firewind both before and after Chitty's brief stint with them. It differs a little from its predecessor in that there is a slightly greater amount of mid-tempo grooving and a more simplistic riff approach, most likely due to Chitty and bassist Pierre-Emmanuel Pélisson writing all the songs without any input from a principle guitar player. Nevertheless, songs like "Calling The Gods", "Archangel", "Hell Awaiting" and "True Believer" prove to be no slouches in bringing in a bit of a Primal Fear styled speed metal character at several key points, and high speed cruiser "The Supernatural Virtue" actually brings in a bit of a thrash/melodic death metal character to the instrumental approach that almost sounds like it could have been lifted off of "Slaughter Of The Soul".
This isn't to say that the entire album is just a bare-bones excursion into radio-friendly metal anthems, as the two present guitars do take ample time to shred up the fret board during their obligatory solo sections, but there is definitely a bit more of a rock radio character to the way this album flows. It becomes particularly blatant on a lot of the slower groove songs like "Evil Eye" (which sounds like it could have been on one of Masterplan's first two albums) and "New World" with its sort of 80s tinged bluesy character. Nothing ever quite comes off as a total failure in the general song list (save some of the bonus material), but there are definitely some songs that feel like they could have had a bit more put into them and are less than full. That said, while the first bonus song "Spirit In The Wind" has a decent driving riff reminiscent of Sabbath's "N.I.B.", the two following additions are where this album takes a truly odd turn. Both "Believing The Dream" and "Dreams Of Fire" were composed for national sporting events (what is it with nationalistic music and dreams?), and are about as contrived and awkwardly optimistic in character as can be imagined, not to mention totally skip-worthy.
Given the circumstances of this album's birth, a little leniency can be given for the somewhat jarring character of the album's final moments given that for some reason power metal fans are allergic to albums that clock in under 40 minutes (this wasn't the case back in the 80s). It's definitely far from the worst thing ever put out in this style, and it will probably be a nice occasional listener for anyone who wants their metal well produced and easy to access. It's uncertain whether this band has any future given Chitty's serial band hopping tendencies. Then again, Gus G had the same general habits earlier in his career and has kept his own primary project going the entire time. Let's just hope that the next studio run will build a bit more on the stronger part of Chitty's traditional 80s influences.
Civilization One were a band who seemed to leave as quickly as they arrived, and appeared doomed to fall into the one-release wonder category after splitting up back in 2010. Their debut ‘Revolution rising’ really wasn’t anything too special, but it was a nimble little melting pot of a few different European power metal approaches and a good showcase for the vocals of Chity Somapala and the guitar talents of Aldo Lonobile.
Lonobile didn’t stick around for long though after the band attempted to move beyond studio project status, and his loss is keenly felt on this shelved follow-up release now belatedly brought to light by Limb Music.
Superficially similar to its predecessor, ‘Calling the gods’ is inevitably something of a different beast, probably best described as melodic metal with dashes of power metal and some irksome “modern” elements here and there. It should be remembered that Lonobile wrote 2/3 of the music on the debut and his absence is noted as the songs mostly feel lacking in depth, with less touches of flair injected to keep things lively throughout.
The roll-call of drummers and guitarists fluctuating around Somapala and bassist Pierre-Emmanuel Pélisson was probably a factor in the 2 assuming control of the band and writing all of the music between them, with the vocalist actually penning the biggest percentage of the songs. This may have been the problem as while his own performance is characteristically strong and the melodies are often inspired, the main structure of the songs often feel reduced and overly simplistic, with most hovering comfortably around the 3 1/2-minute mark.
There are some inspired moments to be found, mostly in the soaring choruses, and despite the simplistic nature of many of the songs there are still a few surprises to be had, though sadly not always pleasant ones. The Pélisson-penned “The supernatural virtue” is essentially just a lightweight Gothenburg song with melodic vocals, but actually works quite nicely and definitely contains the CD’s most memorable riffing.
On the other side of that coin though lurks the moronic groove riffing on “Hell awaiting” and a few other half-assed attempts at heaviness that usually manifest in the form of repetitive beatdown chugging.
The shortness of the songs means the 10 tracks that make up the CD proper only run to a skimpy 35 minutes and I can’t help but wonder if this may have been a factor in struggling to get someone to release it back when it was recorded, and by extension the inclusion of a couple of completely baffling bonus tracks.
The first of 3, “Sprit in the wind” is very much in the vein of the rest of the CD and in fact would have made for a decent closer to wash the away the distasteful, squawking guitar sounds on the weak “New world” that serves as the true final track, but what follows really defies belief on the first listen. “Believing the dream” and “Dreams of fire” are both actually Somapala solo tracks – recorded for Sri Lankan sporting teams after Civilization One had split up - and would sound more at home on some faceless world music compilation CD. “Dreams of fire” actually has some goofy charm going in its favour, but both songs are just so staggeringly out of place that you have to question the motivation behind including them here.
Normally I think it would be bad form to get so hung up on the bonus material, but when these tracks make up about 20% of the total running time its difficult to ignore –the CD either has to be seen as too short and undercooked, or padded out with inappropriate songs that they had lying around.
This dissatisfying and confused feeling is something that permeates the CD – some of it is pretty decent stuff, while at other times it feels contrived and by the numbers. Definitely a step down from the more than decent debut CD, it remains to be see where Civilization One can go from here, if anywhere.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)