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Greetings! My name is Matthew, and I love to listen to all types of metal. I'm a high school English teacher and aspiring writer. I also write reviews for the Metal Utopia webzine!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

War of Ages - "Return to Life" Review

War of Ages - Return to Life
Facedown Records
Genre:  Metalcore

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Leory Hamp (vocals)
Alex Hamp (percussion)
Steve Brown (guitars and bass)
Mark Randazzo (additional vocals)

1. Immortal (4:01)
2. Redeemer (4:09)
3. Fallen Idol (3:59)
4. Silent Night (4:19)
5. M.E.B. (1:46)
6. Song of Solomon (3:30)
7. With Honor (4:08)
8. Psalms (3:51)
9. Final Act (3:27)
10. Unite (3:11)

           War of Ages have released their fifth full-length album entitled Return to Life, and the expectations for the album have been fairly high.  Over the past few years the band has gained increasing popularity with their brand of thunderous, take-no-prisoners metalcore.  Hamp’s distinct vocals have always served as a backdrop for War of Ages’ sound, and the band has always delivered solid artwork depicting scenes of fierce Godly warriors.  Their staunch Christian lyrics are a standout even in a metal genre in which many bands claim to be people of faith.
            The question becomes, “Did the band deliver?”  Having followed the evolution of the band since their Pride of the Wicked days, I have had the chance to watch their style change little by little.  Rousing battle epics like Strength Within and Through the Flames have gradually given way to songs of a more melodic scope like Failure.  Before Eternal, I don’t think that the band would have considered writing an instrumental.  With the advent of clean singing on Eternal, it was obvious that the band was headed in a more melodic direction.  That may seem like a lot of information that I just spewed forth, especially if you are new to the band, but I think that it’s necessary to completely understand where War of Ages is headed.  So, we come to Return to Life.  Picking up where Eternal left off, melodic singing has taken an even more prominent role, and at times borrows pages from bands like Haste the Day and Oh, Sleeper.  

            However, Return to Life has something missing.  On songs like Immortal and With Honor, the epic scope that War of Ages has always strived for remains intact.  Much of the record, however, lacks intensity and a few songs are generic.  They are nothing that the band hasn’t done before, and will leave a dry taste in your mouth.  Fallen is mediocre at best, and were it not for a few nice guitar leads it would be boring.  It seems like Hamp attempts to emulate guest vocalist Sonny of P.O.D. from their last record on Silent Night, but it just comes off as a generic version of the song Eternal.  However, the album does recover somewhat and closes with Final Act and Unite, songs which showcase phenomenal guitar playing and even hardcore shouts. 
            Adding additional melodic sections into your songs is a commendable act, but not if it detracts from the “grit” that makes your music most enjoyable.  Stories detailing the journey of epic Christian warriors fail to relate to the music as much as they used to.  The record has a clean, crisp production, but it is missing something.  Overall it is not entirely consistent.  Return to Life is a solid release, but it is by no means the bands’ magnum opus.  Certainly, if I was asked where to start with the War of Ages discography, Return to Life would not be my first choice.    

Overall rating:  6.67 out of 10.0 (Average)
Musicianship:  7.5 out of 10.0
Song structure:  6.0 out of 10.0
Album structure:  6.5 out of 10.0
How did I come up with my rating?  I rate the following categories:  musicianship, song structure, and album structure.  I then take an average of these three scores and come up with an overall rating.

1.0-2.9 (Poor:  musicianship is poor, song structures are haphazard, no directional flow)
3.0-4.9 (Good:  musicianship is sloppy, song structures are undeveloped, flow is hampered)
5.0-6.9 (Average:  musicianship is adequate, song structures are good, flow works most of the time)
7.0-8.9 (Excellent:  musicianship is very good, song structures are thought out, songs connect well)
9.0-9.9 (Superior:  musicianship is superb, song structures are varied, flow is almost flawless)

Note:  Ratings may be given in increments of 0.1 for a final score (rounded up) and 0.5 for individual category scores.  I will never give a rating of 10.0 because I do not believe that any one album can be "perfect," and the ratings at either end of the spectrum will be very few.
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1 comment:

  1. I'm on about the same level with you. It's a good release, but not their best in the least.