There are always those few bands that you expect to similar material every time one of their albums comes out. These bands produce records that don’t stray too far from their roots, and can easily be considered a straight continuation of their previous works. For six records, War of Ages has been one of those bands. Every time they come out with an album, they don’t do much to change their typical metalcore/hardcore sound, leaving traditional listeners satisfied but everyone else wanting something a little bit more. With their newest record, Return To Life, War of Ages continues to increase hope that they would produce something beyond their typical radius of sound, and the outcome is something that once again is a bit disappointing due to this lack of change.
Much of the tracks off the record are straight-up generic metalcore anthems. For example, the spoken-word beginning of “Immortal” sent chills up my spine, but the song’s melodies were so typical that it began to bore me before it ended. A mix of As I Lay Dying and Underoath in the band’s sound became something very traditional and expected from the band with the material off their last couple of records, and this returns, but not quite as strong in execution. However, the guitars – rather than the drums – often sound like machine guns, beefing up the sound and impressing me just as much as the expanse of this album.
If you’re looking for an album that emits an abundance of hope and faith, then Return To Life may be your match. It’s solidly written and brings with it a sort of spirituality that reminds me of bands like Demon Hunter. Every song has a strong message behind it, and the instrumentation often backed up the band’s meaningful revelations well. Guitar solos in “With Honor” add to the affluence of positivity in the lyrics, while in “Redeemer,” Killswitch Engage-esque clean vocals cauterize an excruciating, yet diligent breakdown that match the quasi-stoic qualities of the track. Screams from vocalist Leroy Hamp throughout the album sound strong as usual, helping benefit the thick wall of melodies created by the group of instrumentalists.
If there’s one standout track on Return To Life, it’s instrumental acoustic track “M.E.B.” The track (I wonder if its name was taken from Mind Equals Blown?) reminds me of the few acoustic songs that Oh, Sleeper threw on their latest work, Children of Fire. Though the track is short and very simply executed, it happened to surprise me enough that it became one of my favorites songs on the album. In fact, the thing that makes this acoustic track so beneficial to the record is the fact that it splits up the record and gives a break from the typical guitar intro-scream-guitar solo-breakdown structure that runs dry very quickly.
In the end, War of Ages made an album full of generic, but also solid metal songs. Though there is lesser worth when it comes to the band’s staple sound, through its lyrics and message, Return To Life will still be a record I may pick out and listen to every once in a while. If War of Ages had changed their sound up a little bit, or maybe even have done something like featured guest vocalists like in their previous release, it may have been a bit more enticing. But as a whole, Return To Life is a grouping of metal tracks (and one acoustic song) that are average at best.