civil-war_the-last-full-measure-2Copycatting is behavior generally reserved for little twerps on a mulch-surfaced playground at recess (and only slightly less annoying than asking “Why?” non-stop). Imitation naturally extends to metal as well, though it typically has to transcend influence and homage into rank apery before bands get a strike against them. Even blatant mimicry can earn a pass nowadays if done with enough gusto (hello, Hellbringer). Civil War continually, desperately strives for such status. Last time around, we beat our steel drum over how glaringly Gods and Generals imitated Sabaton, the band from whom our anachronistic Swedes seceded. As suggested by vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson throwing shade at Sabaton not so long ago, Civil War won’t be surrendering in the war for your history metal soul. But with the departures of bassist Stefan “Pizza” Eriksson and original Sabatoneur Oskar Montelius, does The Last Full Measure have the bodies needed to mount a successful offensive?

For anyone unfamiliar with Civil War or his accompanying acts (Astral Doors, Lion’s Share, Wuthering Heights), Johansson was the kid in high school who organized talent shows just so his Dio tribute band had a captive audience. He trades on his sublime channeling of the late great Ronnie James and leaves little room for doubt regarding his vocal prowess. However, Dio fanboyism is best left to Astral Doors and keeping Johansson from riding the tiger was paramount to The Last Full Measure’s success. LFM opens with the bombastic major key guitar-work of “Road to Victory,” borrowing heavily from modern power metal conventions while Johansson guides you on a personal tour of all the glorious vocal hooks he can dream up. Sabaton remains the most direct comparison but LFM’s tuning and production set the axes higher and thinner than the typical Sabaton song, exchanging the meatiness that suits Joakim Brodén’s gruff delivery for a subdued sound that lets Johansson shine. His weathered crooning stands front and center and “Deliverance” is as close to pure Dio as it gets. Though sounding surprisingly strained at times, Johansson still effuses the flair and panache necessary to carry the record.

Unfortunately, originality is in short supply here. LFM is largely derivative of Civil War’s past work and doesn’t expand upon the scene in general. They never drive their knives as deep as Lion’s Share or soar to the fantastic heights of Wuthering Heights or even Powerwolf. “Gangs of New York” spotlights how heavily Civil War relies on Johansson to elevate otherwise average licks, while “America” and “The Last Full Measure” feature capable, full-throated performances but ultimately fail to impress. Though consistently hitting the double-wide target for which they aim, I’d view the entire album as too safe for its own good if not for the inclusion of curveballs “Savannah” and “Tombstone.” It’s hard to tell if The Last Full Measure suffers from a vocal emphasis that leaves the instrumentation high and dry or if the vocals are the only thing keeping the Swedish ironclad afloat.

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Patches of diversity remain refreshingly scattered through LFM, damning their rivals’ creative approach to rewriting the same song eight times and calling it an album1Civil War keeps the album fresh in this context, even if they fail the larger litmus test. “Gladiator” shreds as hard as anything on the album, while highlight “Deliverance” dishes out a lithe dose of Dio-worship that conjures up cheesy yet undeniable hooks. Similar to how Ensiferum’s “Two of Spades” disco metalled its way into my heart, “Tombstone” blends off-kilter folk ditty with full-fledged ripper that pleasantly caught me off guard with its low-fret noodling and out-of-left-field approach. There’s less narrative substance than a Sabaton history lesson but, while I appreciate that aspect of Sabaton, the gimmick has worn thin. Civil War do well to avoid another “Braveheart;” their lyrics are still on the nose but at least there’s no more dancing Scots.

The Last Full Measure furthers Civil War’s campaign as a competitor in this subset of good-if-uninspired power metal but doesn’t exceed Gods and Generals. If you enjoyed that platter, I see no reason not to enjoy this one. Frankly, Civil War passed up a golden opportunity to establish itself as a frontrunner in the scene. Though unshackled by the stagnation of their opponents, they leave the brass ring behind, opting to entertain but rarely fulfill. Civil War didn’t win the war, they just didn’t lose it.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Napalm Records
Websites:  | facebook.com/civilwarsweden
Releases Worldwide: November 4th, 2016

 

Show 1 footnote

  1. Forget Sabaton, I’ve listened to the same Powerwolf song on repeat for the better part of the decade.
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  • Oscar Albretsen

    Singer sounds like he’s 90 years old.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      I left a line on that on the cutting room floor as NPJ’s age is remarkably hard to track down. He could be 90 for all we know.

    • Reese Burns

      If he really is 90, then good on him. If not… Yikes.

    • Thatguy

      This whole schtick sounds like it’s 90 years old.

      • Bart the Repairman

        Maybe with the exception of approx. 30 years old keyboards.

  • Eldritch Elitist

    Not to hijack the thread of your excellent review Dr.W, but can we all agree that if you look at the cover and squint a bit, it looks like the guy front in center is holding onto a unicorn horn for dear life? http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3287a54bc5fa9b9720bf382cdd219a4adfde12c820517d66d4f0fa3f9b4a6002.png

    • StormRider

      lmao who cares

  • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

    What is it with Euro power metal bands and the Civil War? I guess it’s not that different than American bands who sing about Viking stuff, but it just seems so odd.

  • Iain Gleasure

    As a pleasant Canadian I often wonder why Americans treat the Civil War with such fascination in the sense that- looking at the History it doesn’t seem like the South had any chance of winning and staying independent. So I always see these what if’s and I think, who cares, the South would have lost anyway. They didn’t go quietly but they had less men, infrastructure, money, industry, no foreign support and almost no trade after the Anaconda Plan.

    So can anyone explain why people are so caught up the the possibility of a free south? It wasn’t going to happen.

    • The South successfully breaking away wasn’t as far fetched as you might think. The war was increasingly unpopular in the North and had Lee pulled off a major victory at Gettysburg and menaced D.C. itself, it’s possible there could have been some kind of brokered parting of ways.

      • Iain Gleasure

        I can see your point and I believe you are better versed in Civil War lore than I. Butttttt, didn’t the Union threaten Richmond for most of the war compared the the south’s relatively brief attempt, and wasn’t Lee’s attempt on Gettysburg inherently flawed? I was under the impression he had no way to secure supplies to Pennsylvania and refused to let his men loot what they needed. Something that Sherman did to great response if nothing else in Georgia.

        • If you use he term “threaten” loosely, sure. The Northern army was very poorly led and several thrusts at Virginia were met with humiliating loses with very demoralizing effect. The leadership of the Southern army was vastly superior and they were able to smash much bigger Northern forces in numerous engagements. Lee was able to invade “Northern territory” in Maryland and later Pennsylvania, and he very nearly won at Gettysburg. Had he done so, there would have been nothing between his Army and D.C. The city itself was well defended, but a Southern army at the gates of D.C. may well have convinced the North to sue for peace and to let the South go their own way.

          • Iain Gleasure

            I don’t mean to be perverse, but again, I thought Lee couldn’t really supply his Pennsylvania army. Even with no army in the way to D.C. would he not have had to turn back?I thought his men were starving by Gettysburg let alone D.C.
            edited for a ? mark

          • If Sherman could march an army of almost 80,000 all the from Florida to Virginia, Lee’s army of 15,000 could have existed in the Pennsylvania countryside for a few weeks if it meant a victory over the North.

          • Iain Gleasure

            Ok, I was merely under the impression that Sherman’s army survived on looting. Your point acknowledged, good sir

          • Sherman’s army looted and took whatever livestock and foodstuffs they came across as they burned their way through the South. Lee’s army had a vastly smaller area to traverse from Virginia into and through Pennsylvania and though Lee gave orders not to loot, his troops did so anyway. Now, if they had a real chance at ending the war following a victory at Gettysburg, they would have made sure they did what was necessary to keep the army moving and fed, including scavenging the rich countryside of Pennsylvania.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      Aren’t all Canadians pleasant?

      • Reese Burns

        We most certainly are, good sir. Biased? Me? No, never!

      • The Nerd.

        Most of the time, but leave us the fuck alone during a hockey game please.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      People care about the possibility of a free south? I always thought the civil war was brought up from time to time because it’s a dark part of the country’s history.

      • The Civil War is a fascinating period of American history and it’s viewed in different ways by different people. For many it holds a kind of sentimental nostalgia as a tragic lost cause uprising against what was perceived as tyranny and injustice.

        • Oscar Albretsen

          Well, I’m really no expert on it. I just thought the primary cause was the southern states revolting because they wanted to save their right to have slaves. Hard to see how many people that would be too supportive of that these days…

          I’m sure there were other causes that factored into it, too, but It’s difficult to conceive how people could be too nostalgic about the slave trade.

          • There were many other issues wrapped up in the Southern grievances and eventual secession. They took issue with the trade policies enacted by Congress and believed most power should reside in the States, not a centralized federal government. A big part of that was the right of States to keep the institution of slavery. The nostalgia comes from the resistance to an powerful government, not a fondness for slavery.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Well, that makes sense. People are nostalgic about their willingness to truly stand up against the government as opposed to simply accepting everything it orders you to do.

      • Iain Gleasure

        In Canada, news about the South and the Civil War will often bring up the idea. Mostly it will be loosely connected to stories about the resurgent civil rights movement, BLM, and so on. they often link modern problems back to the Civil War

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Is the same band that ruffled the steel fur of master Druhm a couple of years ago with their Euro rebel yell worship power metal?
    Sabaton, Amon Armarth and Hail of Bullets fill the war / battle metal niche for me… Sorry it’s a pass this time.

    • The very same.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Thought so.. this shtick is old, not old in a nice and pleasant way like Obituary or Sodom but old in an Empire of the Clouds way

        • Oscar Albretsen

          I can certainly say, however, that this band would be a lot better if Bruce Dickinson were singing.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      No Bolt Thrower?

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        I stand ashamed

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Blame it on brain damage from too much headbanging to Warmaster.

  • Nola Trash Talk

    I love every CW album and expect this one to be the same. I also love Sabaton but this is a fair assessment of their product. Sometimes when doing this strict historical approach to music, it’s much better to keep it simple and let the stories speak for themselves.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Well, I think Axl, lyrical genius that he is, really said it best:

    “I don’t need your Civil War.”

  • I love their debut album (The Killer Angels, 2013), one of my favorite power metal albums of all times, but the follow-up (Gods and Generals, 2015) wasn’t as solid (but still good enough). Can’t wait to check this one out.