Review Summary: Here, while War Of Ages do a commendable job at constructing a solid metalcore album, when you catch yourself nodding off during a song and saying “hey, didn’t I hear this riff 3 tracks ago?”, something is seriously flawed.
“Is that a new song As I Lay Dying
" No…." Oh, well then, is it by Killswitch Engage
…." Huh" Still no" War of Ages…. who is that"”
Several days ago, I had a couple of friends over at my house for a good, old-fashioned bout of friendly gaming, popcorn, and action movie watching. As we engaged in rather fraternal discussion of some of our favorite metal songs and artists, on my stereo, I looped “Immortal”, the opening track of War of Ages’ most recent brainchild, Return to Life
. Instructing my friends to guess exactly what band this was, I was greeted with precisely the same dialogue written above. Unfortunately, I assume it’d be safe to say that this would be the response received from pretty much any unfamiliar metalcore fan at this point. War of Ages has never been much for originality., you see. A large percentage of their songs happen to consist of the universally accepted metalcore mayhem you can all but assume you’ve heard before, albeit in a slightly more/less interesting fashion. Here, while War Of Ages do a commendable job at constructing a solid metalcore album, when you catch yourself nodding off during a song and saying “hey, didn’t I hear this riff 3 tracks ago"”, something is seriously flawed.
Upon brief inspection, one can very easily come to the conclusion that War of Ages is a band that both knows who they are and what they are trying to achieve. Throughout it’s entire duration, it is virtually undeniable that is a persistent niche War of Ages have planted themselves in. While this may rub off as having a rather calculated feel, the band uses this to their advantage. There are a lot of heavy, chugging riffs, gang vocals, and soaring choruses to be had here, and most of these traits are executed in a fairly impressive manner. Opener “Immortal” is a incredibly good track absolutely brimming with monstorous, stomping grooves, consistent double bass work and melodic guitar leads that would make Adam Dutkiewicz proud. This is big, unabashed, and absolutely solid metalcore, complete with genre-staple chants, varying from “ARISE! ARISE!” to “WE ARE THE CHILDREN OF PROMISE!”. While not necessarily original, it is fun as hell, and one cannot help but having even the slightest hint of an ear-to-ear grin while listening to at least one of these tracks.
Unfortunately, while consistent, Return to Life
does have its moments where things begin to blend in and sound similar; very, very similar. Take out track 5, the all-acoustic instrumental “M.E.B.”, and you’ve got 9 tracks with extremely similar guitar leads, choruses, and riffs. If you pulled some random guy off the street and made him look at the names of the songs, listen to them, and then rearrange all the song titles, I’d be shocked if he knew the correct names to any more than 2. While you get the occasional reprieve and breath of fresh air, such as the ambient interlude and solo in “With Honor”, you will find a fairly large portion of your time here noting these songs tend to drone on and on, with no clear end to the monotony in sight. The other noticeable problem here would have to be vocalist Leroy Hamp. While he has a decent set of pipes when it comes to singing, occasionally sounding like Brandon Saller of Atreyu, the same cannot be said for his screams. The man has virtually no range, never dipping down for some low, gutteral growls, and never going up for a throat tearing high shriek or anything of the like. What you’re left with is an incredibly middle of the road screaming vocalist with more downsides than upsides; and if that isn’t bad enough, there is the occasional time on Return to Life
where Hamp attempts to RAP. As if trying to achieve some “badass” effect in the beginning of “Silent Night”, Hamp spits out an incredibly weak chant/rap that literally had me holding my head in my hands, embarrassed for the song, embarrassed for Hemp, and even embarrassed for War of Ages as a whole. Just try listen to it…. it really is that bad.
If you have been searching for a band that breathes originality, or perhaps a group you feel could be “the next big thing”, turn around right now and do not return. War of Ages knows exactly what sound they are going for and who their target audience is, and they do not step even an inch out of the comfort zone with Return to Life
. This album presents an interesting scenario in that it’s neither particularly disappointing or enthralling; it’s solid, yet meager, consistent, yet monotonous, fun, yet boring. If you have nothing else to do, want a new metalcore record, and don’t mind a lack of originality, by all means, check Return to Life out. If not, I can’t really recommend anything more than a passing glance.