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WAGE WAR – Manic

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Fearless Records

Release: 1 October 2021

Opening with the industrial tinged Relapse, Wage War thrust you into the heart of Manic from the outset, Cody Quistad‘s calming vocals soon giving way to controlled chaos of Briton Bond before reverting to the easier listening style which is a feature of the band’s music.

The two contrasting vocal styles, coupled with a stuttering and oddly suited electronic element, announce from the first track that Wage War are experimenting in both sonic intensity and delivery on Manic.

Let’s hope it continues. I’m intrigued now.

Teeth continues the promise, harshly whispered intro lines quickly giving way to an angry, almost barking intensity that ebbs and flows with the music that accompanies it.

Normally I am dead against the constant interruption of clean vocals. Sure, they add a dimension – some would say simplicity – to the music but they far too often come off like a whiny spoiled brat that didn’t get the extra attention he craved as a child.

Not so with Wage War. The cleans are still a minor distraction (so far) in parts, but are more than offset by a tough rhythm section that super cedes any softer or clean moments of levity.

The title track starts off with minimal music, focusing on spoken lyrics, and works through an almost doof doof interlude before the manic intensity kicks in. Playing back and forth between aggressive intent and exploratory house, Manic is so different in its approach it is almost impossible to discount. Not sure if I like it, but I think it’s going to be one of those songs that gets better with each listen. As I write this, I am warming increasingly quicker to the song’s unique charms, so scrap everything I said before. I will go with great song!

High Horse starts big and continues bigger, an up-tempo and frighteningly aggressive slab of metal that showcases Wage War at their metallic best.

I am really loving the spasmodic timing changes and stuttering delivery coming through on most tracks, if not only to allow even the shortest moment of stillness allowed an otherwise constantly banging head and neck a moments respite.

Circle The Drain starts off as more formulaic rock and veers even further down that path as things slow down considerably into what I can only assume is one of the radio friendly tracks on the album. Big choruses, massive hooks and a complete lack of aggressive vocals quickly reinforce this belief.

Godspeed sets things quickly back on track with a swirling guitar pattern and almost militant vocal delivery announcing it as more of a metal friendly radio single complete with the classic harsh versus clean vocal contrast that is becoming more and more of a safe option in the modern world of metal.

Death Roll – great name – brings things nicely back into perspective with a silky guitar solo and thunderous drum intro, inviting Bond to deliver another of his ferocious accompaniments that is accentuated by a driving riff and almost hypnotic drum pattern.

Again the subtle stop/start machinations of each instrument only adds to the intensity, with the well placed solo offerings adding an extra depth to a song that is already killer on its own.

Slow Burn starts heavy but soon succumbs to the gentle tidings of finesse, inviting us to share some form of pain by fire with the band but delivering little more than a token ballad style number that, in my opinion, most albums could do without.

Judging by the title, Never Said Goodbye, I’m already reaching for the skip button as the next song begins, and nothing I hear before that strike has convinced me to soften my approach.

True Colours starts off guitar driven and stays that way, Bond again displaying his vocal range and ability with a clean/harsh hybrid that strays a little too much to the former for my liking.

If Tomorrow Never Comes bares its teeth from the opening note before Bond chimes in full of venom and fire. So much for leaving an album with a feel good and accessible tune, and thank fuck for that!

Despite a couple of tracks too deeply engrained in the niceties of metal for my musical tastes, Manic is a great album from Wage War.

It delivers on nearly all fronts despite this reviewers adversity to change and shows enough in the way of diversity and experimentation to suggest that Wage War are only now finding their musical identity.

Which makes the future very bright indeed.

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