By now you’ve likely seen the meme about Pokemon and a new Blink-182 album speculating what year it is, and adding to that potential confusion is Heart Like War with their catchy, at times edgy take on pop punk.
Hailing from Los Angeles, which makes a lot of sense in the pop punk world is Heart Like War with their follow up album to the debut Party Propaganda Machine. For those looking even farther back in time, Heart Like War’s first release was an ep in 2009, The Battle Begins, so in the big picture, the band has had a good bit of time to craft their sound. From the very first track, one can’t help but notice the literally perfect production and mixing for this genre. Each instrument is distinct and clear and the vocals have that almost friendly, bright sound to them that one would expect. Obviously having punk heavyweights like Mike Herrara (MxPx) and Stephen Egerton (Descendents, FLAG) involved with the band has helped with their overall sound and Mike even sings on their debut single “Today I Grew Up” from The Battle Begins ep. For the summer of 2016, the band is embarking on their first tour, ambitiously covering ground from Arizona to Washington State. As for the meaning behind the name, the band talks about their Christian beliefs and how we are living in a “Spiritual War,” where “every day is a battleground” and “our hearts go to war to fight the good fight.”
Given the name, one might be expecting some tough-guy hardcore but if that is the case, you are looking in the wrong place, this is pop punk in all its glory. “Bring It On” may be one of the best introduction tracks ever for a band. Rapid fire drums lead right into the fast nearly jangly chords and some “whoah” gang vocals that all quiets down for part of the verses leaving only a great bass and drum line to carry things before the guitars come back in. Add in the shouted gang vocal sing-along choruses and even a bass solo and you have crafted a great punk song, this one a little less poppy than others on the album.
As one often hears on punk albums, there is even some social commentary on the next track “Media Zombies”. Again, bass and drums carry things early and really the rhythm section is incredibly strong on the album as a whole. The song itself talks about the how many fall for everything the media throws at them. Vocals, which play a big role in the overall pop punk sound, are for lack of a better term, spot on, David Camarena brings exactly what one would want, and both the lead and backing vocals are one of the strong points on the album. Which brings me to the production in that it can be a challenge to get the vocals and instruments right for this genre and again here the sound is incredibly good.
After the first two tracks, the album veers a bit more into the realm of poppiness, starting out with “Screaming” which to my tough-guy ears is a bit too syrupy sweet for my liking. One thing I did notice at various points throughout the album is similarities to a band like All in particular. Of course there are likely a lot more similarities to bands like Blink-182 but that’s a bit past my time and I never really like them, so I tend to notice older bands influence (i.e., the ones that influenced bands like Blink-182). Even down to the arrangements of the songs and how the various elements progress throughout a song, I am reminded of All, and that’s a good thing. Some things like the acoustic section and then the drum and chant part in “Starting Line” don’t work at all for me but then again, I prefer things a bit more edgy, and I could see that actually working out great live.
One other aspect that struck me as I was listening to Fired Up is the maturity in the song writing which sounds like a misnomer for a punk band but there is considerable variety in how the songs on the album are arranged. At first I was thinking that every song was going to start out with some drum riff, but that fear quickly faded. Like any pop punk album worth listening to, this one is filled with melodic songs somewhat bright in overall tone that speak to the various trials in human existence. The sound is edgy enough to not overly offend the punk purists but also approachable enough for a much wider audience.
Written by John Jackson
1. Bring It On 2:48
2. Media Zombies 3:07
3. Screaming 3:18
4. Never Be A Zero 2:55
5. Faith 3:09
6. Pluck My Heart 3:04
7. Starting Line 3:02
8. August Burns Blue 2:44
9. BlessMyLife777 3:26
10. Boy Meets World 3:17
David Camarena – Lead Vocals/Guitar
David Robledo – Bass and Comedian/Back Up Vocals
Andrew Camarena – Drummer/Producer/Keyboards/Vocals
Record Label: Thumper Punk Records, June 2016
Video for ‘Bring It On’
Band site: https://www.heartlikewar.com/page/