Friday, August 1, 2014

Review: Supreme Chaos

War of Ages' Supreme Chaos

Release Date: July 22, 2014
Label: Facedown Records
Genre: Metalcore/Melodeath

     Yes, it has been quite some time since my last "review", and I apologize for my absence. I want Audiosanity to actually help people find new music or at least learn more about music they have already heard of but not looked into as of yet.  To do that, I need to post more than two reviews in, what, five months? Yeah, that is quite the extended break, and I have no real excuse except laziness, so I apologize.  In that time-span, there has been a large amount of music released, some good, some... not so good... and a rare exceptional few that I will sure to be featuring on my year-end countdown. So, without further ado, let us dive into yet another metal album, War of Ages' Supreme Chaos.

     Now, War of Ages is a Metalcore band that also has ties to the Christian faith. WAIT WAIT WAIT, don't click away JUST yet. Not every band that has a connection to a certain faith is worth condemning; on the contrary, a good amount of them just use that faith to help inspire them to write, but do not necessarily use that faith in all of their lyrics. I have seen very solid bands, such as Demon Hunter and Becoming the Archetype, be condemned and cast out just because they happen to be Christian. So what? They have some religious undertones in their songs, but does that make them any less good? Sure, there are exceptions that only ever sing about their faith to the point that they are purposely trying to convert you; those are the bands, whatever faith they may be, that should only apply to the religious. 

     I am not writing this defense because I am religious, far from it in fact, but I am writing it because there is a problem with labels like "Christian" or "Muslim" or what-have-you: they alienate the band from listeners that aren't of the particular faith, and that is just close-minded thinking.  So let us try to ignore the whole "Christian" label, and criticize the album for what it is.

     I personally have not listened to War of Ages in quite some time, not since their second album, their first with Facedown Records, Pride of the Wicked.  I thought is was relatively decent, listened to it a couple times, and latched on to a few songs, like "Rise From the Ashes".  After that album, I had only heard of War of Ages more via some of my friends and acquaintances who listened to them quite a bit, alongside other bands like For Today and The Autumn Offering.  I had not much of an excuse to go back and listen to them any more since I was not as impressed with Pride as I thought I would be after hearing all the praise War of Ages got from that and their later albums.  Almost eight years later, War of Ages releases Supreme Chaos, their sixth album to-date, with a new rhythm guitarist and bassist than I remember.  Apparently War of Ages has a REALLY hard time holding those two positions down, as they have had five rhythm guitarists and 4 bassists in their 12-year career.

     Also, the new guitarist's name is Jack Daniels.


     Anyway, this Erie-based quintet has made quite a few musical strides and has gained quite a following since I last thoroughly looked into them, though they still only seem to be popular within the Metalcore circles, which sometimes gets a bad rep from other metal enthusiasts.  If you don't listen to and talk to a lot of people that listen to metal, than you do not know, but metal tastes vary incredibly and can often lead to heated arguments or fights, and some of the most criticized metal is Metalcore and Symphonic Metal. I'll get into Symphonic Metal on a later date, trust me, but Metalcore, which is basically a mixture of Thrash-y metal and Hardcore Punk, is incredibly criticized, and it usually boils down to the overuse of kick drums and particularly the vocals. This is hard to explain because bands from Pantera to Killswitch Engage and Asking Alexandria are given the "Metalcore" moniker, even though they sound drastically different. Usually the Metalcore that is criticized more are the bands that are more on the Asking Alexandria/Escape the Fate side of things, vocally anyway.  These singers tend to have more "youthful" tone to their voices, during both their clean and harsh vocals, leading to their harsh vocals being compared to children screaming, which I am honestly inclined to agree. It's just not my kind of scene, but War of Ages on the other hand is more akin to the Metalcore with mature-sounding and guttural vocalists, in this case that vocalist being Leroy Hamp.  And boy, does Hamp show his chops on this album, probably being my favorite element of the album

"From Ashes"

     Hamp's vocals just seem to match each and every song perfectly and he worked well with the producer of the album, Josh Barber, who mixed his vocals well, making multiple recordings of Hamp present in many of the choruses. Josh Barber has also worked with other well-established artists, such as Norma Jean and Solace, the latter of whom I would definitely recommend checking out.  If you listen to the above song, you'll see what I mean with the vocals, and this trick is something that a lot of my favorite bands use all the time, such as Soilwork and Blind Guardian, and Hamp definitely reminds me of the legend Bjorn "Speed" Strid from Soilwork, as well as a hint of Demon Hunter's Ryan Clark, both of which are points in Hamp's favor.  He has a very gruesome and dirty sounding scream when he delivers his harsh vocals, but not to the point that they are unintelligible, which I count as another point in his favor. Making really heavy and harsh metal is fine and all but if you put time in your lyrics, then why not sing them so that we can understand them. Hamp seems to understand this, and I commend him for that, as I do for his integration of cleaner vocals. This really isn't a surprise or new concept if you have listened to ANY Metalcore or Melodeath tunes before, but it is still appreciated and well implemented, as it makes the choruses more repeatable and, more importantly, singable. You'll want to sing along with Hamp the more you listen to the songs, and for most of the songs I picked up the choruses pretty quickly, only one or two listens and I had them down.

     Not just the vocals but nearly everything that is happening behind, and sometimes in front of, Hamp is really well done: lots of catchy and fun metal that I could imagine listening to whilst running, playing games, destroying people in a mosh, or even sitting down to do some work. It is just easily listenable, with lots of nice guitar melodies and incredibly impressive drum work, which I would also say makes Hamp's brother Alex the other star of the album as the drummer for War of Ages.  I have no real faults with the music in any of the songs, even the electric bits such as those heard in "Doomsday", everything just helps push out more addicting sounds that you'll want to hear again and again, I can only imagine how insane a concert with these guys would turn out.

"On Broken Wings"

     Now we reach the part I tried to get around and hoped I would not have an issue with: the lyrics. despite my defense earlier that not all Christian bands sing exclusively about religion and to give them a chance, I have discovered that War of Ages is one of those preachy bands, and if you listened to either of the above two links, you have discovered that as well.  One of my favorite songs on the album, "From Ashes", which I liked simply from the sound of it and the musicianship entailed, has a few lines that can't help but be interpreted as religious, such as "Fight for the path unto forgiveness" and,

I knew from the first time that I saw you
You were sent by God
To take this wounded soul
and make it whole again.

     Now, the latter verse could be interpreted multiple ways. Hamp could be talking of an angel, a servant that would have been literally sent by God to help cleanse this sinner's soul, which is supported by the repeated line "You know every ounce of my past." That line makes it sound incredibly literal, as if the person the singer is referring to literally knows every single thing about him, insinuating this person was recently sent and already knows everything about him. The song could also be simply talking about a woman in this man's life that is helping save him just from a life of pain, the "You were sent by God" line being an exclamation of how thankful he is to have this woman in his life. However, immediately after the "And make it whole again" line is "Past the bounds of time; The shadows fall before you." This line, in conjunction with the title, makes me suppose he is referring to a human servant, a disciple, namely Jesus Christ.

     I may be completely wrong in my analysis of the song, but the fact still remains it is obviously a religious song in content, and the rest of the album follows suit. And these aren't undertones or just positive messages being given that happen to reflect the Sermon on the Mount or something like that, every single song has a direct reference to Jesus or God or some other figure in the Bible, as well as multiple mentioning of being "saved" or "forgiven for sins".  It goes so far that I cannot pay attention to the words without thinking I am being preached to. If that is the way War of Ages wants to go about things, and from interviews it seems that is so, than they can go for it, I just don't have to like it. So the lyrics are a big letdown for me, particularly since I tend to stick up for a lot of "Christian" bands like this, such as when Icon For Hire was labeled as such, despite barely having any semblance of religious lyrics.  However, War of Ages is completely christian, through and through, and they want to help lead you toward the "true path" and help save you, if they can.

     Me, personally, not interested in being saved, sorry guys.

"Amber Alert"

     Overall though, Supreme Chaos is quite a pleasure to listen to, it all sounds great and War of Ages has definitely taken a more Melodeath-look at Metalcore since I have last listened to them, giving off a really heavy Soilwork vibe to them, which I mentioned previously.  There is a lot of neat riffs and breakdowns throughout the album and the electronic bits inserted in multiple songs are welcome and do not seem inappropriately inserted.  However, I cannot get by the incredibly preachy lyrics, well-written though most of them may be, the content is just too saturated with Christian themes and messages for me to listen to without rolling my eyes.  If you are not too bothered with that element, or if you are Christian and really dig the lyrics, you will probably enjoy the album more than I did.  I will give this album a 7.8/10: A very well-put together album that is very energetic and has a ton of good elements, it is just those lyrics that bring it down for me, and they don't really try too much different in any of the songs. The songs don't sound the same, its just noticeable War of Ages didn't take too many chances branching out musically between songs besides those one or two second electronic bits that really just pump up the bass to set up for choruses. If you are more interested in the themes of the songs than I am, I'd say an appropriate rating for you is closer to 8.8/10. Regardless, it is a very good album and worth picking up.

Click here for War of Ages' official website.
Click here to download the album via iTunes
Click here to download the album via Amazon.
Click here to buy the album and other War of Ages merchandise from Facedown Records.


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