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Sabaton with a better vocalist. - 84%

hells_unicorn, April 3rd, 2013

The recent split of nearly every member of Sabaton with that of Joakim Brodén brought with it the usual cliche of 2 rival bands now vying for ownership of the same sound. Civil War is a de facto continuation of said Swedish power metal outfit, going so far as not only to conform itself to the same general sound, but also take the exact same lyrical subject of war history. It's quite a formulaic affair, touching all the predictable devices of a dense keyboard atmosphere, a chugging yet melodic riff set reminiscent of Iron Maiden and Helloween, but played somewhere in between the two in terms of tempo. It's a grandiose sound that is definitely fitting of the auspicious events in history depicted in the lyrics, but one can't help but be taken a bit back by its overt simplicity and predictability.

There is one thing that sets "Rome Is Falling" apart from any mid-tempo rocker in the Sabaton back catalog, and that is the presence of Astral Doors and Wuthering Heights vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson. Say what one will about his derivative vocal style when matched up with the more original yet also very limited baritone range of Brodén, but the overt Ronnie James Dio worship of Nils fits the formula here much better and leads one to ponder what every Sabaton album would have sounded like had its eventual helmsman decided to stick to playing keyboards and Nils been given the gig. Images of the majestic atmospheres that painted "Dream Evil" and "Sacred Heart" come to mind as this song soldiers on, converging with a modern, heavier sensibility that might well have been a potential new path for the fallen king of rock n' roll had he hung in with us for another 10 years or so.

It's a foregone conclusion that anyone who likes Astral Doors and Sabaton will find a sure winner here, though this is arguably better and has more potential than the latter band. There is definitely a chemistry between the acrobatic range of the vocal work on here and the consistent to the point of stoicism of the music. The slow trudging groove of the guitars and beat literally paint a vivid picture of Visigoth warriors marching upon the faltering city/state of Rome, while Nils' gritty shouts conjure up images of instructions being called out by a commander of the horde, with the words "no mercy" being implicit amid the strong execution of all elements in play. This is definitely a band to watch if one is inclined towards traditionally oriented power metal.