War of Ages – Return to Life

 Posted by on January 20, 2013 at 15:40  Add comments
Jan 202013

WOA - Return To Life 2012Some bands who have been around for a long time arguably manage to not change their sound and yet still remain relevant and fresh sounding release after release, while other bands feel a need to update their sound after a few albums. Sometimes this works, sometimes not. War of Ages latest album, Return to Life, is their fifth full-length album on Facedown Records and seventh release overall since 2004 and brings in some new elements to their trademark sound.

Ever since their first release on Strike First Records in 2005, War of Ages have reminded me of Hatebreed. Maybe it’s Leroy Hamp’s guttural screaming vocals, maybe it’s the fact that they have remained true to their style and sound while others change with the times. War of Ages to me have always presented a blend of old-school hardcore with some metal guitars, truly metalcore. Alex Hamp’s drumming and Steve Brown’s guitar work has always worked to bring together the metal and the hardcore. Chugging riffs, rough, screaming vocals, double bass thumping along, and guitar solos…what more could one want in an album?

It took less than ten seconds into the song “Redeemer” for me to see where War of Ages was heading with this new album, introduction of clean vocals. I remember hearing this song as the first lyric video released for this album and immediately turned off the song. Yes, I admit it, I tend to be a bit of an extremist when it comes to clean vocals in hardcore and metal. Clean vocals used in this manner seem to be almost a gimmick. Several of the songs on the album feature clean vocal choruses, which are well done but seem to take away from the songs. On “Song of Solomon” the clean vocals act as almost an intro and outro to the song, fading out at the end, and left me thinking the song would have been much stronger without them. “Song of Solomon” does break some new ground for War of Ages in addition to the clean vocals at the beginning and the end as the faster verse sections and gang vocals are not the usual guttural full-out screaming from Leroy Hamp but are somewhat restrained, fast clean screaming in style. This is a much less radical change than the clean vocals and I think fits very well within standard War of Ages sound but is still somewhat different than expected and a welcome addition.

Return to Life opens up with what I say is perfect example of War of Ages sound. “Immortal” starts off with an intro clip of a sermon and then a chugging guitar and drum start up until Leroy Hamp exclaims, “We Rise!” To me this is the strongest song on the album. Great guttural vocals shouted with conviction, gang vocals in a shout and response section, some melodic sections and some strong guitar solos make this a War of Ages song that includes everything I have come to love in their music.

Unfortunately, much of the rest of Return to Life sounds like Killswitch Engage, newer As I Lay Dying, or one of many other bands. Musically it is very strong, but I found myself thinking I’ve heard this before and that the songs really don’t stand out as much as War of Ages songs in the past. There are some other high points though as the songs “Final Act” and “Unite” both are very reminiscent of older War of Ages material.

Rating: 6/10

Written by John Jackson

01. Immortal
02. Redeemer
03. Fallen Idol
04. Silent Night
05. M.E.B.
06. Song of Solomon
07. With Honor
08. Psalms
09. Final Act
10. Unite

Band Members
Leroy Hamp – Vocals
TJ Alford – Bass, vocals
Steve Brown – Guitar
Branon Bernatowiz – Guitar
Alex Hamp – Drums

Unite Us All – 2004
War of Ages – 2005
Pride of the Wicked – 2006
Fire from the Tomb – 2007 [Re-release and re-recording of the self titled album]
Arise and Conquer – 2008
Eternal – 2010
Return to Life – 2012

Weblinks: Facebook / Myspace / Twitter

Record Label: Facedown Records, April 2012

Buy the album here:
 First Paradox 
 Nordic Mission

Video for “Silent Night”:


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