The thought of Wage War being positioned as metalcore’s newest juggernaut is an odd one. After all, this is a band who’ve been put onto this pedestal from absolutely nowhere after a debut album that did virtually nothing, and even with A Day To Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon behind the production desk for this sophomore effort, the whole ordeal has some clear signs of a marketing manager’s wet dream. Alongside the fact that they’re cut from the same melody-favouring cloth as I Prevail, there’s little reason to have much in the way of confidence at a first look of Deadweight.
Thankfully, Wage War do deliver to a degree. It’s still not an album really worth writing home about, being a lumpen, misshapen effort evident of a band trying to capitalise on their good reputation by any means necessary, but compared to swathes of uninteresting metalcore that’s been something of a norm, there’s at least a little more ambition and imagination overall.
That might be giving Wage War a bit too much credit, as there’s a lot on Deadweight that gives the impression that they’re singing from the same hymn sheet as many of their metalcore peers. For starters, the dual vocalist scream / sing dynamic couldn’t be more played out by now, and with the respective burly screams and almost impossibly buffed and polished cleans from Briton Bond and Cody Quistad, nothing’s changing there. It doesn’t help when they delve deepest into rote metalcore tropes either, with tracks like Southbound and Indestructible feeling so formulaic in their composition, and a heavy thematic crutch of inner demons and psychoses at multiple points across the album, and in such plain, overused terms that hardly feel like they touch on anything new or worthwhile.
But even so, Wage War’s blunt hammering approach strikes with a great deal more force than any rinsed-out, overworked guitar work, even in these tracks, and even though there’s a similar level of glossy production here, Deadweight never feels driven by its production rather than the other way around. It means that, while there’s nothing in the area of real technical prowess, Wage War’s assault sticks regardless, partly because there’s brute force there, and partly because their efforts do get repurposed at points for that extra memorability factor. They aren’t much, but they go a long way towards proving that Wage War are more than just run-of-the-mill pretenders, whether that’s Bond driving the politically-charged whirlwind of Disdain and the Slipknot-tinged highlight Stitch, or Quistad’s melodic foil taking centre stage on Gravity and Johnny Cash. Again, Wage War aren’t breaking any new ground, but the little they do do goes a long way in helping them at least begin to find an identity amongst their faceless, identikit peers.
That’s not to say that Wage War are completely onto a winner just yet. Deadweight struggles to find a stable identity for its creators, more comfortable with trying out numerous approaches and as of yet, refuses to settle on one. But there’s enough gumption and effort here to show that Wage War could potentially go somewhere if they focus and build on those moments of diversion from the norm. That’s being generous at this stage though, as there’s still a lot of flab here that needs to be cut back so Wage War’s glimpses of their best become the primary setting. Not exactly deadweight then, but it could do with cutting down a few pounds all the same.
For fans of: I Prevail, We Came As Romans, The Amity Affliction
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Deadweight’ by Wage War is out now on Fearless Records.