In 2012, there was a schism in the SABATON camp that resulted in four members of the band departing to start the somewhat aptly titled CIVIL WAR (more of a minor conflict, really, much to the detriment of my introduction). The move was surprising since SABATON was really starting to break out to worldwide success, but apparently the lack of desire to spend a lot of time on the road was a major contributing factor to the decision. I recently received a copy of their second album, Gods And Generals (May 12 on Napalm Records) and to say that I have conflicting (see what I did there?) feelings about it would be an understatement.
CIVIL WAR’S first record, The Killer Angels, was a good debut from the new band, but I was never really able to get past Nils Patrik Johansson’s vocals, which is very surprising because I absolutely love his work in WUTHERING HEIGHTS and ASTRAL DOORS. Unfortunately, nothing has changed on this second release with Nils’ vocals – they feel thin, reedy and unnecessarily rough too often. Sure, sometimes they fit the song, but there are tracks that really would have benefited from a more traditional power metal vocal style.
Some songs, however, he absolutely nails – “Tears From The North”, a paean to the early Vikings from Sweden, is a fantastic track and is my favorite one from the album. “Braveheart” tells the story of William Wallace of Scotland, popularized by the movie of the same name, and it’s a hard driving tune that the vocals really fit into well. Nils’ timbre on “Schindler’s Ark” gets really deep and low and it’s a delight to listen to. Unfortunately, these highlights are the only songs on the album that I could really get into.
The music is well done – if you enjoy SABATON’s music, you’ll enjoy CIVIL WAR’s as well. The songwriting is a direct carry over from their former musical lives. It’s good stuff, it’s not terribly complicated, and there are no surprises. The lyrics are typical Wikipedia metal – basic, high-level relations of historical concepts, mostly related to wars – again, no surprises. They won’t blow you away, but they may make you curious about the source material.
Overall, it’s a pretty good album, despite the fact that I really just don’t like most of the vocals. This is one that I’ll put back on the shelf and probably come back to after a while and give it another try, but after about 20 listens, it’s just not sticking with me and making me want to listen to it over and over, unlike several other releases this year.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Tears From The North”, “Braveheart”, “Schindler’s Ark”, “Admiral Over The Oceans”