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Oskar Montelius and Stefan Eriksson has prior to the release of the album left Civil War. The band will according to a recent statement not bring in any steady replacements but instead continue as a five-piece.
Civil War are back with the follow-up album to their solid debut The Killer Angels (2013), and I think it's safe to say that not many will be surprised to hear that they stay pretty true to their chosen path also on this album. The ground recipe is the same; classic, riff based and melodic heavy metal and this time they have taken everything from the debut and tried to shape it up.
In hindsight, I have to admit that I underrated the debut album. It has matured well with time and is worth more than the six points I handed out two years ago.
All trademark elements from the first album are here as well but it sounds like they have tried to fine tune and slim the song structures down, and unfortunately it does not work that well. I miss the space in the sound and the complexity of the songs on the previous album and EP. The recording and mixing, courtesy of renowned producer Peter Tägtgren (Abyss Studios), is rich and clear but sounds to me a bit too naked and compressed. I would have liked a bit more bombastic and fat production.
There are some more distinct melody lines to be found here but it lacks quite a bit in the chorus department. I feel that they not by far do the sometimes great verses justice. There are a couple of fast smokers to be found on the album (War Of The Worlds, USS Monitor) but for the most part there is a more midtempo and epic touch this time around compared to the debut, which suits their lyrical concept and overall approach very well.
It is a well enough balanced and dynamic album and unusually enough, since I am a fan of speedy tunes, I actually find the best songs here to be the more grand and epic ones in mid- or slight uptempo (Admiral Over The Oceans, Gods And Generals).
Just as on the debut there is a good portion of melancholy folk/irish melodies included (Braveheart, The Mad Piper, Tears From The North). Those three songs are however part of a four song block in the middle which feels a bit odd and makes the album lose a bit of its appeal during their run but they make up for that with a great ending of the album, the dull Schindler's Ark aside.
It is a good album but they mix highs that are not so breathtaking with a few too many lows and I had anticipated more. Johansson's vocals are as usual magnificent but these songs do not allow him to play out his full registry and he sounds like he is keeping himself on a leash. Nevertheless, he is still single-handedly raising the level of the band several notches, because without him they would inexorably drown in the vast ocean of similar bands.