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Nice way of studying for History exams - 76%

Andreas_Hansen, April 15th, 2018

Here is our third History lesson with the members of Civil War. Already tired by the two first chapters? This one is better than the previous ones though because it is fuller and more fleshed out, where the band will teach you History with even more passion and determination than ever. So, today's lesson will be about epic battles, slavery, Far West, settling of scores in New York - and obviously, Civil War.

More than one year after "Gods and Generals", Civil War released their third album, "The Last Full Measure", deeply rooted in the veins of the previous one. Musically speaking, the band follows the same pattern as popular power metal bands like Powerwolf or Sabaton: they're doing the same thing for years, with the risk of boring the fans. But there, Civil War is doing it rightfully! They keep on putting energy and interesting riffs into their music without passing by the commercial ease of having only a few melodic heavy metal riffs that they would loop to make a whole song. And as long as the band keeps our interest in making music while broaching different aspects of the power metal genre, always testing something new, talking endlessly about the same subject is fine for me.

If this album is the best of the three, that's mostly because it is the most accomplished. "The Killer Angels" was good but the cheap production ruined a bit the pleasure we had to listen to it, while "Gods and General" was maybe a bit repetitive. It was clear that the band was lacking something. And they found that "something" with this new disc: epic influences! Though the two first albums were more in the vein of something with a very big traditional heavy metal influence, this one tends to reach more the power metal aspect with catchy melodies and beautiful chorus - especially since the powerful voice of Patrick Nils Johansson was fully able to do so.

They don't waste any time with this new epic aspect since opener "Road to Victory" is probably the most epic and powerful song they've ever made. This song is exceptionally dynamic, paced by a heavy drumming, flooded with epic and glorious lyrics, and a beautiful chorus that only make us join the army and risk our lives in battle (there is no law!).

The rest of the album is less striking but not completely out of interest. Actually, since they put a very dynamic and epic song as an opener before coming back to more "classic" and "regular" song, it instantly tastes more neutral, like if you were drinking water after having drunk several sugar-tasted sodas.

"Deliverance" follows the opener and keeps this so-striking melodic aspect while broaching another atmosphere. "Gladiator" mostly does the same as well, this time in a more negative or obscure mood, with more effects on the guitars. Having a song placed at this particular moment of the album is a quite good idea since it breaks the slow pace imposed by the three previous songs, "America", "A Tale That Should Not Be Told" and "Gangs of New York" in which we deal more with something heavier with prog influences.

The epitome of epicness comes at half of the album, at the fourth song "Tombstone". This song, the best, in my opinion, is split in two specific part: on one side we have the verses, a short country-like acoustic, and the chorus, way heavier, speeder and extremely epic. We find again the same ideas evoked in "Road to Victory" but in a more violent way with a higher tempo. And so, the song alternates between these two completely different parts until the end. However, the band manages to make a suitable transition between each part that gives to the song a certain cohesion.

The only problem with this album would be its power curve, as it plunges as fast as a French President's popularity curve. The full-length begins quite fast, with "Road to Victory", and carries on with "Savannah", quite dynamic as well, but it looses power and interest during the rest of the album (with a little increase in "Tombstone") so much that the last song, "The Last Full Measure", is almost out of interest, even though it starts quite well with a nice organ intro that announces something quite heavy to come... but which is, in reality, a cliché of all that was made throughout the rest of the album. So, in a way, finishing with a half-hearted ending gives us instantly a less good impression of the overall album.

In conclusion, despite a not-very-interesting ending, almost boring and useless, this album is the best of these Swedes. As for me, I'm going to keep an eye on this band to see if they're still able to deliver us solid work in the future years since they release albums quite fast... And also because it would prevent me from having bad marks at History exams.

Originally written in French at Tunes of Steel on the 16th of November 2016.
https://tunesofsteel.wordpress.com

Rise, rise, children of utopia - 75%

past_prologue, November 24th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Napalm Records (Digipak, Slipcase)

Let me start off with a quick confession: I’m not the biggest fan of Sabaton and their bombastic salutes to military history. Sure, I enjoy the occasional anthem like "Primo Victoria" or "Carolus Rex", but after a few songs I start feeling uneasy and dissatisfied, possibly the first signs of Gimmick-induced Stress Reaction (GSR), also known as “Sabaton fatigue”.

Imagine my lukewarm reaction in 2012 when I heard that four Sabaton members decided to secede from their main band and thenceforth wished to be recognized as a separate entity called Civil War. Two campaigns were launched in what turned out to be a protracted confrontation: The Killer Angels in 2013 and then Gods and Generals in 2015. Now, Civil War believes it’s time for a third installment, gloriously titled The Last Full Measure. Since I passed over the first two albums, I am approaching this new record without much prior knowledge of the band’s sound. See it as an opportunity to judge these songs on their own merits.

In the rule-bound world of power metal, the first song on an album is usually an energetic but not-too-original demonstration of style. That’s why "Road to Victory", is equipped with fast palm-muted guitar lines and simple melodic hooks that are layered over busy drum patterns. But the chorus-oriented nature of the music is already revealed in the opening keyboards which foreshadow the melody of the pre-chorus. In this pivotal part, the gruff-sounding Nils Patrik Johansson rouses his followers to battle: “Rise, rise, children of utopia”. Immediately afterwards comes the actual chorus, enthusiastic to a fault. It all sounds a bit silly, but the earworming quality is undeniable. Once exposed, you will find yourself screaming “Rise, rise cheel-dren of utopiAAA” during those unguarded moments of the day. We might call that “mission accomplished” for the reb soldiers of Civil War.

In the late 90s, during the golden years of power metal, it was still possible to recognize distinct regional scenes: the Germans specialized in melodic speed metal, the Italians and Finns were known for their symphonic pretentions, while the Swedes remained obsessed with Manowar and Iron Maiden. Today, this picture is no longer holds. Finally, Jean-Claude Juncker has something to be proud about: the booming festival circuit and larger label distribution have created a single European market in power metal. As shown on The Last Full Measure, regional sounds are thrown into a blender.

"Deliverance" welds the stuttering keyboards of later Stratovarius to a solid body of Teutonic exuberance recalling Orden Ogan or Gamma Ray. "Savannah" is by-the-numbers symphonic pop metal (think Nightwish) sprinkled with Kai Hansen goofiness. "America" combines Gothenburg harmonies and Manowar rhythms to deliver a bombastic ode to the “land of the free”. One more example is the solid "A Tale That Never Should Be Told". Its verses use a classic Dio template of steady (Eastern-sounding) riffs, while the chorus has a catchy, radio-friendly sheen. Of all the songs here assembled, this one is closest to the output of other Swedish bands like Grand Magus, and yes, Sabaton.

All in all, Civil War have composed a good collection of songs. However, this favourable assessment should not detract our attention from the group’s shortcomings. The music on The Last Full Measure can hardly be called original. It is mostly a hotchpotch of existing ideas taken from more well-known bands. The lyrics project simple fantasies and little else. I earnestly think these Swedes could have done more with Michael and Jeffrey Shaara’s trilogy on the American civil war. Look elsewhere if you want so see these historical and literary themes explored in a challenging way.

Striking Hard And Sure - 86%

Larry6990, November 11th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Napalm Records (Digipak, Slipcase)

It's unfair to carry on labelling this band as a Sabaton clone, though the comparison was inevitable. I mean, the band is made up of 80% ex-Sabaton members after all. But no more! With their second release, fellow Swedes Civil War are definitely carving their own path into the power metal scene. That's not to say this isn't for fans of Joakim and co. - the similarities are blatant. But both the quirky and grandiose combine to make "The Last Full Measure" both a solid power metal output, and a lesson in military history that may actually pip Sabaton in quality.

Since their last album, 2015's splendid "Gods & Generals", Civil War have lost a guitarist. That was definitely the correct decision. Does any band really need 3 guitarists?! No, not even you Iron Maiden - you just don't. Ironically, this new album is noticeably heavier than the previous one! The tone is chunkier and the bass is allowed more room to rumble thanks to the absence of a pointless 6-string layer. Take a listen to the verses of "Savannah" for the heaviest chug in this bands' catalogue. The production is laden with bombast thanks to Daniel Myrh's trademark keyboard sound; a truly hammering snare drum; and some spectacular choral harmonies provided by the 'killer angels choir'.

There's a bigger ratio of speedy songs on this album when compared to previous releases. Opener Road To Victory" gallops out of the starting gate with fury and nobility in equal measure. It's one of those rare songs where the pre-chorus is better than the chorus! ("Rise! Rise! Children of Utopiaaaaa!") Other up-tempo power metal hymns like "Deliverance" or the frantic "Gladiator" are equally as fiery - the latter being a welcome change of pace in the album's slower second half. Special mention must go to the wacky "Tombstone"; managing to fuse a cowboy's jig with a raging chorus.

The immortal Nils Patrick-Johansson is the epitome of inimitable. Literally no one sounds like him. His voice may not always be spot-on in tune, but it's packed with so much raw power and unkempt attitude, it's irresistible. "The Last Full Measure" is his most emotive performance yet (and yes, I'm even counting Astral Doors). Just hear him virtually scream the chorus of "Gladiator", or utterly hammer through "Gangs of New York". Nils means business this time round.

The highlights on this album are well worth the price of the CD alone. But the bonus track "Strike Hard, Strike Sure", with its beautiful synth sound and zooming tempo, should convince you to get the special edition. Either way, you'll end up with two of the best power metal tracks of this year: track 3 - "Savannah", and track 6 - "A Tale That Never Should Be Told". The latter is a Sabaton-esque march (fuck!!) with irresistible synths and folk melodies straight from the heart of Tennessee. But the Swedes have really nailed it with the former! Swift vocal patterns; epic harmonies; seriously beefy chugging in the verses; and a chorus to DIE for! "Savannah" really is a must-download for those of you who don't want the whole affair.

Some of the tracks phone in the quality a little. The second bonus track "Aftermath" is total fodder that leaves your ear as soon as it enters. A shame, considering the band proved their ballad-writing credentials on "Gods & Generals". "America" is also a drop in quality after the winning streak of the first 4 songs. Despite some lyrical irony regarding current affairs ("say a prayer for America!), it lacks a dose of energy. But in general, any power metal fan should be happy with Civil War's output this year. This quintet is injecting the power into power metal, one gruff vocal line, catchy keyboard melody and epic chorus at a time.

"Savannah here we come!
This is the final march.
The star-spangled banner waving over us tonight.
Savannah, soon it's done.
You must surrender!
There is no glory in defeat, but hell is far away."