Wednesday, May 4, 2011
War of Ages - Eternal (2010)
It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. What about plagiarism? That's usually frowned upon, in contrast. While the debate over what constitutes plagiarism in writing a high school or college paper are pretty well defined, the lines are far more blurred when it comes to art. For years, bands sharing a similar stylistic approach have all been lumped together into various genre and sub-genre categories, and often those bands are accused of ripping each other off. It happens with every style, and generally the fans look past that due to the various nuances each artist brings to the table to differentiate them from the others in their "scene".
So what does that have to do with War of Ages? Well, some have accused the band in the past (myself included) of perhaps sharing a little too much in common with As I Lay Dying, a band that War of Ages has shared the stage with a number of times. Indeed, Tim Lambesis produced their previous album "Arise and Conquer", which I thoroughly enjoyed (as evidenced by my review of the album). With Tim at the production helm again, and the band's sound shifting in the same melodic direction as their brethren in AILD, once again these accusations are both expected and warranted. But I think it's unfair to label WoA a clone, as they have enough of their own vibe to separate them from the band that is often seen as the pinnacle of their stylistic paradigm.
As with previous WoA releases, the guitar sound is heavy without being overly punishing, and the playing is quite good. Layering of riffs and atmosphere is good, and solo work is also appreciated when it pops up, due to the competence at which the players command their instruments. The biggest change here, as opposed to the previous release, is that the guitars sound like they're slightly more in the background than before, but only slightly. Just enough to allow the more melodic bent of this material to really shine, so the guitars don't feel as though they're the only game in town. Bass work is solid, no frills and does the job well. It doesn't detract from the mix, nor does it take over; it's part of the whole package. Drum work is good as always, and though Alex doesn't quite possess the same caliber of talent as AILD drummer Jordan Mancino, he gets the job done and proves himself to be more than capable of pulling off the necessary tricks to keep things moving and interesting along the way. He probably isn't given as much opportunity to shine here as on the previous album.
Vocally, Leroy is stuck in the same gruff hardcore shouting mold as he has been in the past, and he's as emotional and emphatic as on previous albums, though perhaps a touch less than on the previous release. However, the vocal monotony is broken up more by the addition of a lot more "clean" melodic vocals, and also the guest appearance by POD's Sonny Sandoval. He does a great job here, and the music playing in the background of the title track w/ Sonny vocalizing over the top reminds older listeners like me of what he was doing back in the early-mid nineties when POD was still this little underground band toiling in Southern California to make their name. But most of the album is Leroy yelling over the music, and he's as full volume here as ever, which is a good thing. If his vocal approach lacks the variety of some of his metalcore peers and brethren, his volume and "in your face" vocal delivery make up for it somewhat.
So I guess all of this to say that War of Ages is succeeding admirably in their quest to become As I Lay Dying. I say that, of course, partially in jest and partially in truth. I do believe WoA's trajectory has been dangerously close to that of AILD's in the last few years, what with the slick re-make of their rather hardcore debut, followed by a heavily thrash-influenced album (like AILD's "An Ocean Between Us"), followed by a heavy yet ultra-melodic album in "Eternal", much like AILD's latest release "The Powerless Rise". While AILD's influence on a number of bands is readily apparent, and AILD vocalist Tim Lambesis behind the soundboard for both this and the previous WoA album, it's hard to fault the band totally because copying AILD is a winning formula, much like copying Metallica back in the mid to late 80s worked well for a lot of up-coming thrash metal bands. My only caution to the band is to make sure the next record has even more of a stamp of personality and originality on it. I really enjoy this record, and I've spun it numerous times. Moreso than AILD's latest record, truthfully. But the next outing needs to be more original, more War of Ages. But this record is still recommended, especially because it's just so catchy.