Since being taken under the wing of A Day to Remember frontman Jeremy McKinnon and signing to Fearless Records in 2015, Ocala, Florida band Wage War have quickly seen themselves pick up a huge amount of buzz and fans in the metalcore scene, with a trajectory akin to Knocked Loose, who has also experienced a similar surge in popularity.
While their debut album Blueprints showed a band that knew had to play metalcore well, I personally felt they fell into a lot of the traps lots of other metalcore bands do when starting out, with an overabundance of breakdowns and a reliance on slower, clean chorus which often threatened to kill the momentum of their own tracks.
So has the release of their second album Deadweight shown that Wage Ware have focused on their strengths and trimmed the fat?
Yes and no.
With Deadweight, Wage War has come to realise that they are better leaning into their heavier tendencies, with guitarists Seth Blake and Cody Quistad mixing it up by throwing in some actual riffs into their sound and guitar lines over the tops of their breakdowns, instead of just relying on the open chords and breakdowns, which gives the band a lot more muscle when they do decide to go heavier. The breakdowns on tracks such as Southbound, Stitch, Deadweight and Disdain show that Wage War are writing tracks with their live show in mind, which is where a lot of word of mouth and popularity is being created and spread from these days. As well as this, tracks such as Deadweight and Disdain see Wage War bringing in other disparate elements into their sound instrumentally, with some tracks having a driving force to them reminiscent of nu-metal, which gives these tracks a more energetic feel.
However, there is a massive feeling of ‘been there done that’ with this album, especially with the softer tracks thrown throughout the album, like Don’t Let Me Fade Away, Indestructible and the obviously made for radio Gravity. It is these tracks that the ‘loud-soft’ formula is laid bare and doesn’t do anything interest beyond pad the album length and shows that Wage War were content with doubling down on some of their more generic elements and as such, these track do tend to stand out as a lot weaker than the heavier tracks on Deadweight.
When Wage War focus on their strengths, there is far more to like in this album than dislike, as their decision to lean in a heavier direction shows off the bands strengths, such as the lead vocals of Briton Bond, who has an absolutely monstrous presence on this album. While he generally sticks to a mid-pitched roar, he occasionally drifts into other territories, with his his pitched screams mixing it up and his lower growls really kicking up the heaviness of the tracks they appear in. Alternatively, clean vocalist Cody Quistad has a better showing on Deadweight than he did on their previous album, Blueprints, as he such more control over his pitch and generally stays in a mid-range singing style, which I think sounds way better than when he goes into higher-pitched singing.
With Deadweight, while not the home run that I would of liked it to be, Wage War have shown that they are more-or-less in touch with their strengths as a band and this album seems them leaning into these strengths more than their debut album, Blueprints. However, there are still issues and generic moments to this album, while ultimately served to drag down it’s rating a fair bit in my opinion. However, if you are a fan of this style of metalcore, I would recommend adding .5 or 1.0 to my score and I’m sure you will enjoy it more than I did.
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