Following the 2015 release of their debut full length album “Blueprint”, Ocala Florida quintet Wage War, who hail from the same city as A Day To Remember enjoyed some success but it was the phenomenal rise with 2017’s “Dead Weight” which caught the eye. An album that took the band around the Globe on a two year touring cycle with the Slipknot esq “Distain”, the huge sing-a-long anthem of “Gravity” and of course the brilliant “Stitch”. So the new album title suggests they feel, perhaps like Australian Tech-Metalcore band Polaris, under pressure this time out to produce the goods is of little surprise. Bettering yourself in terms of song writing and musicianship with each records is something most bands aspire to. The cover art, subliminally suggesting that pressure has created a diamond is an interesting concept.
Bringing in a complex polyrhythmic Tech-Metal riff as they step to the starting gate with “Who I Am” is a great way to set the tone. Striking a fine balance between the unclean vocals of Briton Bond and the cleans of Cody Quistad was always going to be challenge this time around as it’s been an increasing force within their sound. The opening track manages to that with some style while throwing in plenty of breakdowns a guitar nuances to keep the older fans of the heavier side happy. “Prison” is could be song from the last We Came As Romans album “Cold Like War” with its big “Whoa” section post each clean chorus. It’s introspective lyrics showcase the bands Nu-Metal influences and fortunately it has enough drive and energy to keep it afloat and make it addictive when it threatens to fall flat. “Grave” continues that WCAR vibe with a chant of “You will never change” in an embedded vocal, programmed drum loops and electronics adding to the bands mix of sound. While it isn’t a bad song as such, it’s a risky experiment that is out of sync with the rest of the album. The absence of any unclean vocals or guitar work with any crunch factor may leave you wondering if it’s a Wage War song at all. Thankfully “Ghost” is a return to the Tech infused Metalcore sound that we know from the Ocala natives as they thunder through a powerhouse track with a big.and catchy chorus with the addition of an extended face melting solo. The theme of a broken relationship runs through the lyrics like a river to the sea and it’s a fun and engaging journey along it.
Changing gear with another experiment of sorts “Me Against Myself” comes across like it could be from a new album by A Day To Remember. Almost entirely clean vocals and a pop esq vocal hook, joined by a gang chant of “Alone”, Briton Bond gets a couple of words here and there as the track threatens to burst into a breakdown that never comes with a lasting impression that it’s a bit flat. “Hurt” is more or less the same song as it’s predecessor, all clean vocals and melody. First single “Low” is the one that drew the comparisons with “Doomsday” from Architects and is a fine piece of work, stepping the album out of a two track slumber. It does have the melodic break that it has in common with those previous two tracks but the bounce in and out of the heavier side of the the bands music is what makes the track. A well crafted Tech infused Metalcore song, it has all the signature elements of Wage War. After a programmed introduction, “The Line” kicks in with a DJent riff that sounds fresh and injects a new funky energy. The verse to chorus bridge takes a spoken word style that grows upon you with multiple listens but isn’t necessarily good the first time around. The use of electronics and a Punk Goes Pop underlying sound is fine for what it is and has a sense of fun but lacks any real punch.
Just when you may find yourself questioning what experiment Wage War will conjure next “Fury” comes in swinging. Riffs a plenty, it’s the stand out kit performance from sticksman Stephen Kluesener. Front loaded with Metalcore bounce and stripping out the clean vocals almost entirely to replace them with a group gang chant is a nice touch and change up. The sonic breaks for electonic stabs between stuccato riffs has been done before but it’s highly effective on this one. “Forget My Name” loses the energy and heavier atmospheric of the previous tune, instead diving into the bands worship of A Day To Remember. The change in guitar sound makes the second guitarist almost redundant and there is the impression at this point with the Punk Goes Pop chorus that the two halves of Wage War are doing separate things and there is a split personality situation at this point in the bands career. Melodic Metalcore with a touch more complexity on the dirge laiden riffs “Take The Fight” is more about the lyrics than the music, barely pausing for breath to let the sonics take hold. The message itself is a good one and stands against some of the more negative thoughts in the earlier songs but again it lacks some of the edge that songs like “Low” have. Closing with “We Will Never Learn”, which is something of a more Progressive Metalcore tune with an ambient vibe in places as well as a satisfying crunch on the odd occasion, you’re left wondering where Wage War are going. “Pressure” could easily be an album split into a trio of EPs of similar sounds and labeled as different bands with nothing to necessarily join them together. As a collection of songs it has everything you might want with a multitude of experiments and moods but lacks the album flow to make it a good back to front listen. The styles end up jarring in places and it’s a shame because there are some solid and impressive cuts that show growth from “Dead Weight”. While there is no doubt that “Pressure” will grow on you over multiple listens, there is that lingering question over whether you’ll be prepared to do just that [6/10]
Who I Am
Me Against Myself
Forget My Name
Take The Fight
Will We Ever Learn
“Pressure” by Wage War is out now via Fearless Records