Civil War is a name that will no doubt be familiar to those of you who butter your bread on the power metal side. While it would be easy to try and draw comparisons to the band several of Civil War’s members came from, it would also be grossly unfair therefore we won’t be straying down that path. The band have just released their second full length album, Gods & Generals and if you like a powerful chorus, read on.
When you see the album cover combined with the name, Civil War, you could be forgiving for thinking this was going to be some sort of American themed patriotic collection of songs. You would be mistaken though.
One of the things I thoroughly enjoy about bands that focus on historical concepts is that they can stray away from the “big” stories. Movies have to focus on the big battles and figures to make money, but music can cover the more unknown figures in history. Obviously there are still plenty big moments to cover, Bay of Pigs for one. But even then, the listener can still be learning, not everybody knows the full story of the Bay of Pigs despite the scale of the event.
I’m really here to talk about music instead of history though despite the temptation. By the end of track one, War Of The World, you’ll have got a fairly strong impression of what is to follow. Big choruses, double kicked drums, riffs with oomph and more keyboard than you know what to do with. Also, keyboard vs guitar solos? Always appreciated in metal, there are never enough.
The keyboard change in tone is also something I should mention. The almost industrial sound in Bay of Pigs intro, the clean tones in Braveheart, the clean in the intro of Tears of the North to the grand swelling tones underneath later in the track. A band using a keyboard well is such a rewarding thing for the listener. While drums, guitar, bass and vocals mostly stay similar in a track (though that’s not entirely fair, the control Nils Patrik Johansson has over his tone is incredible), a well used keyboard can change the feel and emotion of a song completely and most importantly, give it its own distinct personality.
Music video for Bay of Pigs
One of the highlights of the album purely as a Scot is Braveheart. It’s a highlight because they don’t shout on about freedom at every chance. There’s more to William Wallace than that, other bands! The Mad Piper is another highlight and not just because of the Scottish connection this time (though the story of Bill Millin is always worth a read). While the use of bagpipes is restricted on the track itself bar the solo, the overall tone of the song could have been played on the pipes. It gives the song an extra air of authenticity about it.
With any luck, we will see Civil War here in the UK soon (that sentence somehow didn’t feel right to type post-Election!) as these songs are crying out to be played live. Tracks like Admiral Over The Oceans (which encourages you to look at your history book again), will have the audience jumping, the choruses of the preceding songs are all designed for raised fist singalongs. Tracks like Back to Iwo Jima are pure headbang fodder (and whoa-oh singalong material) and there are pit moments everywhere you look.
The obligatory power metal epic comes in the form of Schindler’s Ark. It’s only five and a half minutes but the power of it could easily transfer to a ten minuter.
The title track brings the album to a close with another track that opens like it could be a long epic. A final keyboard vs guitar solo and a final galloped riff brings us to the end of a highly entertaining trip through history and despite being ten tracks long (twelve if you count the bonus tracks), you find yourself wanting more.
Gods & Generals is easily one of the highlights of the metal year so far for us. As I mentioned earlier, it has everything you want from a song in the live world and that transfers to home listening. If you can get through this without drumming on something, you’re a stronger man than I. Also, as much as I wanted to avoid mentioning Sabaton in this review, I’ll mention one thing here at the end – I’ve missed these backing vocals.
Gods and Generals is out now via Napalm Records. Like the band on Facebook for more.