Civil War: The Last Measure (Napalm Records)
Civil War is a power metal band formed by ex-members of Sabaton and 'The Last Full Measure' is their third album. Much like Sabaton, Civil War play melodic power metal with a military theme (This is the third record based upon the a trilogy of books about the American Civil Wars by Jeff Shaara- Literature Ed) but Civil War's sound is more rooted in classic heavy metal and traditional power metal. Keyboards are still prevalent but more scaled back with more emphasis on the guitars and the wonderful melodic yet weathered vocals provided by the mighty Nils Patrik Johansson (of Astral Doors and Wuthering Heights fame).
Civil War play it fairly safe on the songwriting front with the majority of the tunes on here either being a speedy power metal number or a mid paced heavy metal anthem with big anthemic choruses galore. A few songs take a more symphonic approach which gives the album a bit of variety and lets a lot of the songs stand apart from each other. Although the songwriting approach is little uninspired you cannot fault tracks such as the insanely catchy Savannah, the absolutely ripping Gladiator and the folky curveball of Tombstone.
Civil War continue to step out from under the shadow of Sabaton and become recognised as their own band. The Last Full Measure is a further step down that path. It's not a perfect album as a few songs could have been cut and the running time reduced a little but it is a great anthemic power metal album. 7/10
Deathspell Omega: The Synarchy Of Molten Bones (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
After a four year absence Deathspell Omega return with another dose of their unique brand of black metal. Their previous release the EP Drought was a more experimental release but with The Synarchy Of Molten Bones Deathspell Omega return to their previously established sound at times taking it to further realms of extremity. Each of the four tracks seems to outdo the previous in terms of intensity and extremity with dissonant guitars, mind bending chord changes all barely held together by some of the most inhumanely intense drumming.
The vocals sit somewhere between screaming and growling and sound truly hellish. With only four tracks and a running time of under 30 minutes, The Synarchy Of Molten Bones is over way too quickly but at least in this respect it doesn't outstay its welcome. Deathspell Omega are one of the few black metal bands around today whose music sounds intimidating and at times genuinely deranged. The Synarchy Of Molten Bones is absolutely essential listening for those who like their extreme metal terrifying, off-kilter and teetering on the edge of sanity. 8/10
Starkill: Shadow Sleep (Prosthetic Records)
I've stated in a previous review that a lot of modern mainstream metal fails to impress and leaves me feeling cold. Unfortunately Starkill are not an exception to that rule. Shadow Sleep is album number three for Starkill and is a 21st century take on melodic death metal sounding a bit like a cross between Soilwork, Children Of Bodom and Trivium. Chugging, groove laden yet melodic guitar riffs are mixed with symphonic keyboards, pedestrian drumming and the harsh and clean vocals of frontman Parker Jameson. There are some nice moments during the album and everything is very well played.
The backing and co-vocals by Sarah Lynn Collier add a dramatic and epic edge and lift songs such as the title track, Cloudless and Piece Of Paradise. There is some very nice lead guitar playing throughout the album as well. Unfortunately it all sounds so clean, polished and clinical that very little of this album sticks with you by the time it has come to an end. Shadow Sleep isn't a bad album but neither is it a good one. Despite enthusiastic performances from all involved it is just a very generic and forgettable album. 5/10