Sound: War of Ages may just be an average metalcore band to the average ear, but a closer listen to them shows that they show much more mastery over the different realms of metal than one would expect. Their latest release "Eternal" is really a mixed bag of tricks, and it should really offer up something special for a multitude of listeners. Their frontman, Leroy Hamp, drives the music forward and accents with a signature vocal style: raspy and grinding, hardcore at its finest. Guitarist Steve Brown really shines in this band, as he is constantly laying down stunning leads. Guitarist Branon Bernatowicz and bassist T.J. Alford offer up some tasty, crunchy rhythm parts, while Leroy's brother, Alex Hamp, keeps an impressive pace and energy with his drumming. Here are the songs:
01. Collapse: good chorus and melody, little different than their usual sound. Classic War of Ages sound in the rest of the song. Solo at 2:45. (I felt this would have actually been better suited for somewhere near the middle of the album, but at the same time, I had a hard time picking what song should be in its place)
02. Desire (feat. Tim Lambesis): another classic War of Ages sounding song. Quick rhythm parts with a soaring lead over the top of the chorus. Solo at 1:11.
03. Failure: beautiful layered guitarwork throughout(e.g. 2:24). Heavy riffing in verses. Solo at 3:04. Quality clean vocals.
04. My Resting Place: good intro riff, hard-hitting but overall a little average compared with the other songs.
05. Eternal (feat. Sonny Sandoval): one of the vocal highlights of the album. Good riffing also. Fast-paced, doesn't let up.
06. Indecision: good main/intro riff. Chugging rhythm throughout. Great solo work at 1:40 and 2:19. It makes for a good transition to the marching outro.
07. Lack of Clarity (feat. Josh Gilbert): straight-up metal guitar riffs. Solo at 2:17.
08. The Fallen: one of my favorites. Very ominous, heavy. Lots of dark tones and eerie vocal additions. Great breakdown at 2:46.
09. Your Betrayal: I love every guitar riff in this song. Also very dark and heavy. Great outro solo at 2:26.
10. Instrumental: self-explanatory, but absolutely fantastic. Outstanding contrast between the acoustic guitar and the electric. You can feel the emotion in the notes of the guitar. Beautiful closer.
All in all, I was fairly impressed with the mixing of this album. Everything stands out in its own right. It was mixed by Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying, and he seems to have done a good job of really isolating the best parts of War of Ages. I love Brown's guitarwork because he seems to be in nonstop solo mode on each song, but the layers and depth it adds is spectacular. The same can be said for Branon's rhythm riffs. However, I did end up thinking that this album could have been a little longer and had some more anthems like they're other albums tend to. Still very strong. // 8
Lyrics: A look at the cover of any War of Ages CD really frames what their lyrical focus is on. Hamp's lyrics always tend to revolve around being a warrior and perseverance. They use these concepts to create a message of hope after failure throughout this entire album. Although repetitive, this hope vs. Failure creates a good feeling of contrast during the album's duration that complements the music's changes in mood.
In terms of singer skills, Leroy is solid on this album. I've thought that his vocals were almost too raspy to the point of feeling strung-out in previous albums, but they sounded pretty balanced on this album. As I Lay Dying vocalists, Tim Lambesis and Josh Gilbert, both contribute to a different song on the album. Tim's cameo in "Desire" is short but sweet. Josh's vocals in the chorus of "Lack of Clarity" border on the whiny at points, but he still manages a powerful delivery. The cameo that surprised me the most and yet was probably the most refreshing was that of Sonny Sandoval, lead vocalist from P.O.D. One wouldn't expect his voice to complement metalcore that well, but I think the track ("Eternal") turned out for the best. // 8
Overall Impression: If you don't know what War of Ages sounds like, instrumentally, they are kind of like All That Remains and Unearth together. I can't really think of another description, but War of Ages is worth the time it would take to check them out. What I loved most about this album is that because of their guitar proficiency, they were able to create an atmosphere in some of these songs that was both angry and optimistic at the same time. It shows mastery over the lighter and darker sides of metal. There are a few real gems like "Desire", "The Fallen", "Your Betrayal", and the "Instrumental" if that's you're sort of thing. They are all probably worth at least a listen though. If it were stolen, I would definitely get it again because I plan on cycling it through my car and Zune for a while. Check it out. // 8