Pennsylvania stalwarts War of Ages bring another healthy dose of metalcore in their 9th album Void.
Hailing from Erie, PA, War of Ages have been on the metalcore scene for quite some time with their first album on the Facedown Records imprint Strike First Records in 2005. Since those relatively inauspicious beginnings, War of Ages have gone on to tour with the likes of Battlecross, Throwdown, As I Lay Dying and more and worked with legendary hardcore/metalcore producer Zeuss (Hatebreed, Shadows Fall) as well as Josh Barber (Norma Jean) and Will Putney (Impending Doom, For Today). Now with their ninth album out, War of Ages have gotten to the point where they have over 135,000 followers on Facebook and are regulars at hardcore and metal festivals. For Void, the band went to Sicktones Studios with guitarist Jack Daniels handling the production duties.
Hardcore band with guitar solos is how War of Ages were originally described and as an old hardcore kid who loves metal, this sounded exactly like what I wanted…as it turns out, the “hardcore” part was referring mostly to what us old guys refer to as metalcore, but still the early albums from War of Ages did catch my ear and I followed them for a while. After a few years of being away from their releases, I reviewed Alpha (2017) and found it to be pretty much what one would expect from a metalcore album. Void continues where Alpha left off, all of the elements one would expect in a metalcore album are here from breakdowns, to over the top gang vocals, to clean choruses, to the use of vocal and digital effects, to clean production and great mixing that keeps the vocals and instruments in perfect balance. The things that have always set War of Ages apart for me are thankfully still here as well and that is the great vocals from Leroy Hamp and the great guitar work from Steve Brown and Jack Daniels. Hamp’s vocals go from clean spoken to gritty shouting to rough screaming in a seamless manner, as in the beginning of the first track “The Watchers”. On Void, there are times where Hamp’s delivery and tone in shouted bursts actually reminds me of Zak de la Rocha (Rage Against the Machine), which was certainly unexpected.
Songs like “Sulfur and Salt” and “Miles Apart” for which the band has video clips, serve as a great introduction to the album and to the sound of War of Ages in general. “Miles Apart” has some of the electronic elements opening up the track, leading straight into a complex guitar lead backed by a heavy rhythm section and some fast drumming through the verse sections before settling into more of melodic groove for the chorus. Of course, Hamp’s vocals provide the grittiness expected in mostly a shouted manner bordering on the edge of raggedness. Add a breakdown section and some atmospheric keyboards with more clean choruses and some layered in guitar licks and a solo and you have the somewhat formulaic metalcore song.
“Sulfur and Salt” in video form was released back in May, long before the album and provided listeners a good idea of what was to come on the album. In contrast to “Miles Apart”, this song starts out with the complex guitar riff that fades away for the verse section leaving Hamp’s vocals largely backed by a great drum line from Kaleb Leubchow and some keyboards. Following a clean chorus section the song almost settles into a groove before slowing for a section that sets up a breakdown. Thankfully the band adds some different guitar lines into much of the breakdown to keep it interesting. Following the breakdown, the song veers into an quieter interlude piece driven by clean guitars and keyboards that sets up a brief guitar solo section before the closing of the song which again has keyboards taking over as the dominant sound. This is a somewhat unexpected element to their sound and shows up repeatedly throughout Void, notably in “Blood of the Earth” which also has more electronica sounds to go with the keyboards.
For me, the highlights of the album are “Greed” and “Brotherhood”. “Greed starts out with a heavy, fast guitar riff, that goes near thrash territory, and the song continues in much that vein until the clean chorus, of course. “Brotherhood” starts out with Hamp repeatedly shouting “I will fight for you, together we stand” and while the main elements of the song are often just a slow jagged, pounding riff, there are backing guitar lines, solos, and come complicated riffs throughout that really add a lot to the song before keyboards inexplicably take over to end the track.
On Void, War of Ages look to be aiming toward expanding the library of sonic elements they incorporate into their metalcore formula and to my ears, it seems a bit forced, as many of these sections tend to take the momentum away from the tracks. Keep in in mind that metalcore is not my favorite genre by any means, so I do need to add that disclaimer. The performances on the album are incredibly strong and the great musicianship is evident throughout as are the strong vocals from Leroy Hamp which really are perfect for this genre, I just am not a fan of the overall choices made in the compositions.
Written by John Jackson
- The Watchers
- Blood of the Earth
- Miles Apart
- Sulphur and Salt
- The Return
Steve Brown – Guitar
Jack Daniels – Guitar
Leroy Hamp – Vocals
Kaleb Luebchow – Drums
Elisha Mullins – Bass/Vocals
Release Date Sept. 13th. 2019
Record Label: Facedown Records
Video (audio) for ‘Sulfur and Salt’
Video for ‘Miles Apart‘