War of Ages show no signs of letting up in their 8th release, Alpha, which is sure to be a favorite among the metalcore crowd.
By now most even remotely aware of metalcore have at least heard of War of Ages, but just in case, the Erie, PA band was actually formed in 2002 as Point Zero and their first album was under the War of Ages name on Facedown Records imprint Strike First Records in 2005. Since then, the band has endured a number of lineup changes and produced seven more studio albums as well as touring with some big names in heavy music, including Battlecross, Soilwork, Throwdown, and As I Lay Dying. In the past, the band has worked with Zeuss (Hatebreed, Shadows Fall) for recording and engineering on Return to Life (2012), as well as Josh Barber (Norma Jean) and Will Putney (Impending Doom, For Today) on a later album. In keeping with the idea of working with top talent for production and engineering, Alpha was produced and engineered by Jason Suecof at Audiohammer Studios (Trivium, August Burns Red, All That Remains).
I still remember the early days of War of Ages when they were advertised as a hardcore band with guitar solos, a concept that still sounds awesome to me and brings to mind Lights, Camera-era Suicidal Tendencies and some Wisdom in Chains songs. Of course, War of Ages really doesn’t sound much like that early description unless you equate hardcore with metalcore, but I digress. Something about those early albums caught my ear and I always picked up the new releases as they came out until Arise and Conquer in 2008, after which I pretty much lost touch of what the band was doing. Since it has been about nine years, since I really listened to War of Ages, I was really curious as to what I would find on Alpha.
For the most part, Alpha, is exactly what I would expect from a metalcore album and that is a bit unfortunate for someone like me, but for metalcore fans and War of Ages fans, it will likely be well received. If you don’t like metalcore and list out all of the standard elements typically found in genre, they are in abundance on this album. Production is exceptionally clean and the mixing is a perfect balance of vocals and instruments. The clean vocals shine through and all the instruments are clear in the mix. Computer-generated effects abound in most of the songs, which does make me wonder how those will transfer to a live setting. Leroy Hamp’s rough, gritty shouted vocals are still perfect for the songs and contrast nicely with the clean vocals. What surprised me the most was the guitar work. Steve Brown has always delivered great guitar work on the previous albums but the addition of Jack Daniels, who I remember from Hope for the Dying, has really added a new dimension to War of Ages sound. The two guitarists mesh well, be it on layered intricate riffs or on solos, and sets the band a bit apart from their peers.
I think the one thing I miss is the sense of melody found in the band’s older material. The songs on Alpha seem to not flow as well and are choppier than the band’s older songs. I think that is why even though I am not a big fan of metalcore in general, their older material and songs like those of Darkness Divided seemed to resonate with me.
My issues aside, the album is heavy and filled with songs that are powerful and full of emotion. The shouted and clean vocals play off each other nicely, and there is a good bit of overall variety in the song structures to keep listeners interested. Performances, especially guitars and vocals, are exceptional, arguably the best you’ll find in the genre. While I find it a bit overproduced and too reliant on computers, this is a characteristic of the genre, and the elements are all used to great effect on the album. Taken together, I can see how this album will make many top 10 lists of best albums of 2017.
Written by John Jackson
1. Creator 3:55
2. Fullness 4:09
3. Buried Alive 3:38
4. Warpath 4:10
5. Hollow Point 4:20
6. Repentance 4:02
7. Mind Control 3:36
8. Immunity Revoked 4:35
9. Warrior 4:01
10. Cut Throat 4:05
Leroy Hamp – Vocals
Steve Brown – Guitar
Jack Daniels – 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 [review]
“Supreme Chaos” – 2014 [review]
Record Label: Facedown Records, 2017
Lyric video for ‘Cut Throat’
Video (audio) for ‘Buried Alive’