Band: Wage War
Area: Ocala, Florida
Date of release: 30/08/2019
Record Label: Fearless Records
For Fans Of: Asking Alexandria, Beartooth, Architects
Next Gig: 07/09/2019 – Palladium – Worcester, UK
"Hard to think we were born to live this way
Burning bridges, ripping stitches out to drown the pain
Bleed me out, run me dry, watch the hammer fall
Let the river run and bury me beneath it all" - Low
Wage War are back once again, with their third studio album titled “Pressure” showing a lot more musical diversity than we’re used to from the usually heavy metalcore outfit. This time around, the heavier compositions are evened out by both moments, and full tracks, that show a softer side of Wage War we’re not used to hearing. Perhaps feeling the pressure to put out something beyond ballistic breakdowns and roaring riffs, this album results in plenty of hits that hit very hard, but the misses are also very far off from the proverbial bullseye.
The aforementioned heavy/soft balance was on full display with their latest single, ‘Who I Am’, which sports a strong chorus and a bit of vocal maturity from backup vocalist and guitarist, Cody Quistad, who is showing off his typically strong style of raspy cleans, which work perfectly in conjunction with main vocalist Briton Bond’s new found passion for belting some great melodies at regular intervals. Other standout choruses include ‘Me Against Myself’ and ‘Fury’, which both excel in their own rights for completely different reasons.
In saying that, whilst the band’s new approach to song writing is welcomed (for the most part), a large chunk of it, specifically the vocals, can feel average at times and outright lazy at others. Some lyrical sequences sounded like filler phrases that were written at the start of the song writing process as placeholders until they come up with something better, but ultimately never got around to it. I’d have posted screenshots of a bunch of the one-liners used in this album on my Tumblr dashboard 10 years ago. Whilst it may end up being commercially successful, listeners who crave more substance to their music may end up dissatisfied with this release.
On the flip side, I feel as though Wage War thrived, expectedly, through the heavier moments on “Pressure”. There were multiple examples of me letting out an audible ‘ooft’ whilst jamming songs like ‘Ghost’, ‘Low’ and ‘Take the Fight’, which made full use of fantastic guitar and drum tones to bring the best out of what they were trying to create. These tracks, in my opinion, are really going to tickle the fancy of long time fans, as I felt really satisfied hearing these songs in particular. However, those same fans may feel borderline bait-and-switched by the band, with the leading singles being incredibly deceptive on the overall vibe of the album. Clean choruses thrown into heavy songs are a tried and true formula that definitely works, but there are entire tracks here that bare no semblance to what you’d expect to hear from Wage War and I can see plenty of people feeling very short done by the final product.
Whilst the chunkier portions of this album stand out, there can be softer parts that stick out like a sore thumb due to how uninspired they can feel. I could stumble across better lyrical content and more intricate hooks from bands that are performing on a significantly lower level (Shout out to Windwaker, To Octavia, Deadlights and Pridelands for doing very well in this regard). Other acts seem to push the boundaries with moving their music in a new direction, Wage War seemed prepped and ready to take a leap of faith with their new direction, but ultimately falter with a hop, skip and a whimper. This is, however, most definitely a good enough starting point for them and has provided a foundation for the band to improve upon if they decide to continue in this direction.
I want to take a moment to really commend ‘Me Against Myself’ as a song, as I tried so hard to reject and dislike it due to its pure and clean cut pop style, but credit given where credit is due as it is a very well written and enjoyable ride. Alongside ‘Hurt’, Florida’s five piece have shown an adept ability in taking some influence from modern metal bands that have gradually strayed out of their comfort zones with their more recent releases.
Alternatively, ‘Forget my Name’ suffers and is sandwiched between two tracks that really exemplify this one’s inability to keep up with the rest of the album, which is a bit of a common theme. I would have straight up skipped this song as it doesn’t pick up after a mediocre intro, but I’ve got work to do. It’s only saving grace is its production, which was consistently great throughout “Pressure” and allowed the band to explore a variety of sounds that were conducive to their more ‘experimental’ tracks.
Unfortunately, this album’s flaws seem to be further highlighted by the fact that when Wage War want to, they can REALLY deliver on any song, on any given day, soft or heavy. They flex some true metalcore brilliance on a regular basis, and did a very commendable job of trying something new for a majority of this record. All in all, there’s enough to whet the appetite of die-hard Wage War fans, but also enough to make them grunt with disgust as they trudge through this record’s slower moments. It honestly may have benefited by being released in a split EP/Album – heavy/soft format, but that’s only a personal suggestion.
I recommend scoping out this album in its entirety and making your own decision. If you don’t like it, just kick back and headbang to their first two albums, just as God intended.
- Pressure Track List -
1. Who Am I
5. Me Against Myself
8. The Line
10. Forget My Name
11. Take The Fight
12. Will We Ever Learn
Vocals – Screams: 4/5 – Cleans: 4/5
Would You Go And See Them 5/5
Personal Enjoyment: 7/10