May 4, 2010

Album Review: "Eternal" by War of Ages

War of Ages came to the metalcore explosion late, but that didn't stop the Pennsylvania-based quintet from diving in headfirst without looking back. The young Christian band has released four albums and a re-recording of their first album, all within the past six years, while also touring nonstop alongside the likes of Bury Your Dead, As I Lay Dying, Hatebreed, Throwdown, Heaven Shall Burn, Sick of it All, Demon Hunter, Earth Crisis, and Living Sacrifice. Such a strong DIY ethic, along with the band's straightforward approach to their music and undying love for well-placed breakdowns, has given War of Ages greater appeal among hardcore fans. Eternal continues the trends of previous albums, delivering new and powerful songs with insightful lyrics.

For the production on Eternal, War of Ages returned to the production studios of As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis, who also produced 2008's Arise & Conquer. His production is a perfect fit for the band, creating a clean, balanced sound with proper accentuation on different sections. The good production also serves to enhance the compositions on the album, which are the reason why this album is so successful. The blend of the music leans more towards hardcore than metal, but the metal sections diversify the compositions enough to keep the album exciting from start to finish. Breakdowns occur in abundance, as could be expected, but there are also a fair number of guitar solos from Steve Brown and Branon Bernatowicz. The variety of different styles contained on Eternal gives listeners an idea of just how talented this band is.

However, Leroy Hamp's lyrics are the main draw of Eternal, much like on Arise & Conquer. Hamp ranks with Bruce Fitzhugh of Living Sacrifice and Ryan Clark of Demon Hunter as the most provocative, unapologetic, and intelligent lyricists in all of Christian metal. The lyrics on the album mostly deal with the topic of personal contrition and remorse, paired with the search for hope in a corrupt world. The passion of Hamp's vocal performance matches the intensity of his lyrics, drawing in listeners and inspiring strong emotion. Hamp is aided by guest vocal appearances from Lambesis on "Desire", As I Lay Dying bassist/backup vocalist Josh Gilbert on "Lack of Clarity", and P.O.D. frontman Sonny Sandoval on the title track. Lambesis and Gilbert deliver top-notch performances on their tracks, and while Sandoval's performance might cause some confusion, it fits the track well and gets more enjoyable with repeated listens. In the end, only the most fervent nu-metal detractors will dislike Sandoval's performance.

Eternal is another step up the ladder for War of Ages, a band on the fast track to widespread success and recognition. This young band has the relentless drive to overcome any obstacle they face, as well as an appreciation for their fans that few bands can match. War of Ages is one of the rare bands that can play for thousands of fans one night and then play for less than fifty the next, and be equally grateful for both shows. With such a positive attitude about the music they create, especially in the current climate of the music scene, War of Ages will succeed where other bands fall short. Eternal is a very fitting one-word description for this band.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

Track Listing

1. Collapse
2. Desire
3. Failure
4. My Resting Place
5. Eternal
6. Indecision
7. Lack of Clarity
8. The Fallen
9. Your Betrayal
10. Instrumental

Album Personnel

Leroy Hamp – Vocals
Steve Brown – Guitar
Branon Bernatowicz – Guitar
TJ Alford – Bass guitar
Alex Hamp – Drums

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