CIVIL WAR – Invaders (Album Review)

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Setting sails with a new captain at the helm.

Originally conceived by four former members of Sabaton as a proper continuation of said band’s musical trajectory since their split following the release of 2012’s “Carolus Rex,” Swedish power metal outfit with a penchant for war and history dubbed Civil War quickly made much to distinguish themselves early on. Though their stylistic direction was heavily similar to the straightforward, polished and well-rounded character of their former band, a slightly more complex and varied songwriting approach combined with a very different front man than Joakim Broden in Astral Doors vocalist, and arguable successor to the legacy of Ronnie James Dio, Nils Patrick Johansson would make a pivotal difference and carve out a unique niche within a sub-genre of metal generally known for playing it safe. But with Johansson‘s departure soon after their 2016 LP “The Last Full Measure,” as well as some additional lineup shifts and controversy surrounding departed guitarist Richard Sunden, the future appeared uncertain just as this outfit was beginning to really establish itself.

But in the famous words of Michael Douglass in an obscure independent film King Of California, “Catastrophe, equals opportunity”, and the entry to the fold of guitar shred extraordinaire and former Winterlong mastermind Thobbe Englund and ex-Outworld vocalist Kelly “Sundown” Carpenter, one of the more impressive comebacks in recent memory was in the cards. The backgrounds of both newcomers in more progressive subsets of metal, combined with the incredibly powerful and similarly Dio-influenced voice of Carpenter leading the charge, Civil War has not only returned with a vengeance but has all but totally reinvented themselves in the process, and their resulting 2022 and fourth studio LP “Invaders” presents a veritable case study in how to take an already highly distinctive niche in power metal and make it even more so. Smatterings of darker metallic ideas, lofty symphonic elements and a generally more aggressive approach are all mixed into the pot to yield the most intense and poignant set of songs in this outfit’s catalog thus far.

“Invaders” Album Artwork

In contrast to the prior theme of past conflicts either pertaining to the American Civil War or other notable moments in world history from a mostly dispassionate point of view, “Invaders” takes the viewpoint of the subjects of invasion as the more sympathetic party and plays virtual cheerleader for their cause of resistance, be it a lost one or a successful one. The opening slab of high octane metallic thunder with a heavy dose of eastern mysticism “Oblivion” kicks things off on a decidedly dark and heavy note, sounding almost like a more condensed and infectious version of what Carpenter was doing with Outworld back in the mid-2000s. Other swift numbers that follow such as the title anthem “Invaders” and “Warrior Soul” carry a similarly colossal quality to them, but tilt closer to Civil War‘s previous handiwork, whereas the keyboard-steeped and mid-paced bangers “Carry On” and “Heart Of Darkness” all but veer into Battle Beast territory. Yet the songs that truly see this album come into its own are the overt throwbacks to their previous work with Johansson, namely the infectious cruiser with a heavy Irish folk tune element “Dead Man’s Glory” and the rerecording of their old 2013 EP classic “Custer’s Last Stand”.

2022 was a year of extremely stiff competition in power metal circles, and though the latest offerings out of Freternia, Dragonland and a few others appear poised to be the dominant contenders for the best album of the year, Civil War made a truly formidable showing here that should see their stock rising in the coming years after 6 years of virtual inactivity in the studio. Popular sentiment will likely continue to dictate that Sabaton is the superior act and the true claimant to this particular niche within the power metal scene, but from a purely qualitative and artistic standpoint, this fold managed to supplant most of what they’ve put out since the early 2010s and stacks up well against a lot of the better known stuff out there. Those who want their power metal polished and heavy, but also lyrically deep and poignant will definitely want to familiarize themselves with this album and keep an eye on where they go next.

Order “Invaders” HERE.

Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: June 17th, 2022
Genre: Power Metal

“Invaders” Tracklisting:

  1. Oblivion
  2. Dead Man’s Glory
  3. Invaders
  4. Heart of Darkness
  5. Andersonville
  6. Carry On
  7. Soldiers and Kings
  8. Warrior Soul
  9. Slaughterhouse 5
  10. Battle Of Life
  11. Custer’s Last Stand

Musicians:

  • Daniel Mullback / drums, backing vocals
  • Daniel Mÿhr / Keyboards, backing vocals
  • Petrus Granar / Guitars, backing vocals
  • Kelly Sundown Carpenter / Lead vocals
  • Thobbe Englund  / Guitars

8.8 Excellent

Undaunted by several lineup changes, the remnant breakaway membership of Sabaton and their new recruits that comprise Civil War rebrand themselves in a darker and heavier light as they continue to explore the subjects of war and history from a different vantage point

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9
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