Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: November 4th, 2016
Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
Nils Patrik Johansson – Vocals
Rikard Sundén – Guitars
Petrus Granar – Guitars
Daniel Mÿhr – Keyboards
Daniel Mullback – Drums
Road to Victory
A Tale That Never Should Be Told
Gangs of New York
People of the Abyss
The Last Full Measure
Strike Hard Strike Sure (Bonus Track)
Aftermath (Bonus Track)
It can be an amazing experience to see a “supergroup” that initially started out in the shadows of an already well-established and highly regarded band develop their sound over the years to become their own equally impressive entity. The latest example of this is Civil War, a band initially consisting of four former members of Swedish band Sabaton, one of my personal favorite metal bands of all time. While I initially treated the group as a fun but inferior knock off, their second release Gods and Generals went a long way to dismissing that notion and proving that they could stand strong on their own, and now with their upcoming third full-length release, “The Last Full Measure”, they have further pushed their own sound and created their best release yet. In fact, (and this will be the last time I make a direct comparison, I promise, because I love both bands,) I’d go as far as to say that in a year where they both released new albums, Civil War has won the battle this time around.
The band went through their first lineup change in between albums, with guitarist Oskar Montelius and bassist Pizza both leaving, but instead of replacing them, the group decided to carry on with 5 members, and this was probably the best decision, as the songwriting hasn’t suffered one bit and the group still sounds as great together as ever. On a surface level, the new album still has the same approach, as usual, featuring a collection of epic melodic metal tracks which all deal with various historic battles, and musically all the elements from their previous albums are in place, with a nice mix of heavy riffs, melodic guitar leads, and keyboards aplenty, as well as some symphonic touches here and there. Like the previous album, this one features a nice variety of tracks, with some being fast and hard hitting, some being slower and calmer, and of course there’re some nice surprises thrown in on a couple tracks to keep the listener guessing, so there’s never a point on the album where the music starts to feel predictable. Obviously, the musicians all do a great job and of course, Nils Patrik Johansson is outstanding on vocals, changing his voice up in surprising ways on a couple tracks, while still sounding as powerful as always.
One thing I’m interested to see is where the band goes from here conceptually: For those who don’t know, these first three albums have all been named after a trilogy of books, the first of which was written by the late Michael Shaara, while the latter two were written by his son Jeffrey, so now that the band has reached the end of the trilogy, I’m interested to see where they go from here. But obviously, that’s something that will be answered in the future.
Sticking to the present, “Road to Victory” is the kind of explosive opening track fans would expect, starting off with a brief keyboard intro before taking off at a blistering pace, which it keeps up for the remainder of the track. It’s exactly the kind of uptempo, guitar driven track this band can always deliver and it features some great riffs, a nice solo and of course some excellent vocals from Nils Patrik, especially during the chorus. Fans looking for more speedy passages don’t need to wait too long as after starting out as a somewhat subdued mid paced track, “Deliverance” speeds up during a fantastic guitar solo in the second half and from there it takes off and becomes a pretty spectacular song. Towards the end, there’s a dramatic pause before the final run through the chorus, which is surprisingly effective.
The first mainly slower paced track is “Savannah”, a more melodic keyboard driven track where Nils Patrik uses some very light vocals during the verses, before going back to full power during the chorus. It’s a nice track with some very epic vocal melodies, and the chorus is quite catchy. It also has a very nice solo that transitions from guitars to keyboard partway through. Next up is a unique track on the album, “Tombstone”, where the verses are much lighter than normal and the keyboards lead the way. I don’t know how to describe the music fully, but it sounds rather bouncy and maybe a bit folksy, and Nils Patrik sings with a bit of a western accent during the verses, which makes for a pretty neat effect. Then the chorus comes and it’s extremely fast-paced and powerful, with some of the strongest vocals on the album. It’s certainly quite the amazing track all around, and even if I can’t fully describe those verses, they sure are a lot of fun.
Things settle down a bit in the middle portion of the album, with a focus on slow to mid-paced tracks. One area where the band stands out against their counterpart on these tracks, though, is that instead of relying more on the keyboards, tracks like “America” and “Gangs of New York” both use some great melodic guitar leads, that give them more of a classic heavy metal feel, with the former especially using these in an effective way, and it also features a great solo as well as a huge highlight with the last run through the chorus. In between those two is “A Tale That Never Should Be Told”, another slower track, though this one makes effective use of some symphonic elements and it has a much darker tone than the others, as well as some heavier guitars at points. Its highlight is definitely its chorus, which is probably the catchiest on the entire album: I sure had it stuck in my head all day after hearing it for the first time.
As we approach the end, “People of the Abyss” is another mid-paced track, with some great riffs and some nice keyboards in the background, while “Gladiator” is quite the surprise, as it’s easily the most ferocious, hardest hitting of the speedier tracks on the album. In fact, it’s probably the band’s most aggressive sounding track to date, and yet it still has an epic chorus where Nils Patrik shines as always. Lastly, we have the title track, which feels like a perfect summary of the album on the whole: It features some nice melodic guitar leads, ambient keyboards in the background, heavier guitar passages, especially in the middle, symphonic elements, and even an epic speedy passage in the second half. And of course, it has a pretty damn awesome, super catchy chorus where Nils Patrik steals the show one last time. It’s certainly the perfect way to end albums, and it stands out as one of the biggest highlights. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the end, as there are also two bonus tracks, both of which are featured on my promo copy. “Strike Hard, Strike Sure” is another faster track with a fun chorus, while “Aftermath” is the lone ballad of the album and a pretty nice one indeed.
All in all, The Last Full Measure is one heck of an amazing album, featuring a great mix of speed, heavy riffs, epic melodies, and fantastic vocals to go along with the expected war anthems. While I initially underestimated Civil War after their debut, they have proven to me with these past two albums that they not only deserve to exist as their own band, but they can stand out from the pack as one of the very best. Highly recommended for any existing fan of Civil War, and for all fans of melodic power metal who want to hear some truly unforgettable songs.
Reviewer: Travis Green