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The first line always charges the quickest. - 88%

hells_unicorn, May 19th, 2013

It has literally gotten to the point where the newly born conglomeration of ex-Sabaton musicians and Astral Doors vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson dubbed Civil War have over-promoted themselves, all but releasing their entire album in individual promotional singles. Perhaps the name of the game here is market saturation and building up loyalties amongst the fan base of both aforementioned projects so that the album itself will have a loyal and sizable following willing to part with cash to keep the project going. But regardless of the motive, they've definitely saved the best for last, as their recently released song "First To Fight" is an exemplary fit of glorious, speed infused, metallic fury that basically puts Sabaton on notice.

At times Civil War has gotten dangerously close to plagiarizing the former band of most of their membership, while at others they've walked a fine line between said outfit and the more Dio influenced of Nils, but this song is another story altogether. Essentially this is a beautifully realized hybrid of Helloween styled speed metal with an atmospheric aesthetic that hints at a slight Mob Rules influence. In other words, this sounds like German power metal at its best, oozing with catchy hooks, but also hard hitting and surprisingly technical. More often than not, axe men Rikard and Oskar have put themselves forth as a tamer version of what Accept might bring to the table, in more of a rocking, traditional fashion that is simple in its presentation. But here things get fairly technical, particularly during the lead break section where things get a tad bit Malmsteen-like at times.

Naturally the chief attraction here is Nils' gritty growl, though it does have to work a bit harder to outshine the constant barrage of speed riffs and thunderous drumming. While on the slower works released previously he had tended a bit more towards his Dio inspired shout as regularly displayed on his work with Astral Doors, here he has more of a piercing "arrgh" character to his vocalizations, not all that far removed from his pirate-like gruff on Wuthering Heights' last offering "Salt". It blends nicely with the Judas Priest character of the song and gives it the needed gusto to keep from sounding soft in spite of the highly present keyboards.

Premature assumptions about the upcoming debut "The Killer Angels" are tough to avoid, and it's beginning to look as though this will prove to be a superior offering to the recently hailed "Carolus Rex", and may also rival some of Astral Doors' better offerings. This is definitely going to be a band to watch, including but not limited to all those interest in all associated projects. Contrary to the assertion that there is a crowding out effect when bands divide and merge in this way, there is always room for another solid band, and a continual reminder that 3 can simply be company, rather than the proverbial crowd.