Although Wage War have never been ones to test the limits of modern metalcore, they at least felt almost deserving of being dubbed prospective breakthrough leaders of the scene a couple of years back. Deadweight was far from a fantastic album, but it was the sort of the release that put forward ideas and qualities that could’ve been elevated over time if cultivated in the right way. At the time they were among the most successful at implementing low-end nu-metal guitar work into modern metalcore, and an earthshaking scream from Briton Bond laid down a gauntlet for a viciousness and volatile presence that, if cultivated in the right way, could’ve created some real disturbances within a genre that had seriously begun to stagnate at the time. But given that Wage War are a modern metalcore band and advancing with what works just doesn’t seem to be the done thing, the early singles from Pressure initially seemed to be taking a different bent, moving towards the safe, unchallenging metalcore that bands like I Prevail have inexplicably made a commodity this far down the line.
It’s disappointing but not exactly surprising, and while that’s not saying that Wage War are now as bad as I Prevail (let’s not be cruel here, okay?), Pressure is a pallid, largely unnecessary version of themselves that kicks artistic progression to the curb in favour taking the easy route. It’s a rather stark fall, and while this sort of garden-variety metalcore will inevitably get Wage War on the rock radio playlists they’re clearly gunning for for some reason, it comes at the expense of a much more interesting identity and subsequent longevity. This just feels like it’s ready to sloughed away into landfill just as soon as it’s over, and for the band that Wage War were, that’s a shame.
That’s a move that’s arrived with immense predictability too, given that Pressure has co-opted what feels like every mediocre trope in the book to fashion into another slab of metalcore mush barely different from the last however many. That becomes most evident by the extent to which the band’s greatest assets have been sidelined, as Bond’s still-phenomenal roar and a key sense of meaty nu-metal bounce have been reduced to bit players that are peppered in on Who I Am and Fury amidst a whole lot of not much else. It’s not even like this is the absolute worst example of this thing, but the utter disregard for anything even verging on inventiveness across the entire operation just leaves Pressure in a dead zone where memorability is scant. For as snugly as he fits into the archetype of straight-laced clean vocalist, at least some kudos needs to be given to Cody Quistad for bumping up the choruses on Me Against Myself and Hurt to a level that actually captures some anthemic swell; otherwise, there’s nothing here that couldn’t belong to scores of other metalcore bands chasing the exact same futile trends. The polish is abundant, particularly on hooks that adopt the usual tactic of slowing down and beefing themselves up for fake bluster, and while there’s the odd moment where a solid guitar tone pokes through, it’s usually washed out by production keeping everything as safe and close to the waterline as possible. Anonymity feels like a key feature here, and while that’s not something to be proud of by any stretch, it’s almost admirable that Wage War seem so averse to moving away from their fixed template that they treat it like it is.
And of course, the writing is no different, but that’s been a bugbear when it comes to Wage War in the past and it hasn’t changed all that much here. To be fair, it doesn’t flail quite as egregiously in its melodrama as some of their contemporaries, but that only classes as a genuine positive when confined to the context of neural network metalcore like this. Otherwise, it’s the same usual spiel about being broken reiterated in all the usual ways that feel no less contrived or lacking in any sort of personal detail that could make this connect in any fashion. It’s not even worth isolating individual tracks either, partly because none of them are memorable, and partly because the same effect can be achieved from countless other albums in this vein. Again, Wage War are doing nothing but deliberately falling in line, and it just feels lazy at this point.
And that’s where Wage War have ended up, regressing from a promising band in need of a few tweaks to another churned-out facsimile fresh off the metalcore production line that no one wanted or needed. Barely anything leaves any sort of mark, and when it does it’s so fleeting that it’s worth wondering what the point even was, especially when the main takeaway is to highlight just how mediocre everything else is. At least the buzz around Wage War seems to have eased back now meaning that Pressure most likely won’t be as ubiquitous as it ultimately could be, but instead it’s just a blind spot that probably wasn’t even worth listening to in the first place. At the end of the day, contrary to what its artwork might suggest, Pressure is less a diamond in the rough, and more just rough.
For fans of: I Prevail, We Came As Romans, The Amity Affliction
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Pressure’ by Wage War is out now on Fearless Records.