September 25, 2015 Burn Halo – Wolves Of War (Album Review)
Starting in 2007, following the break up of Eighteen Visions, ex-frontman James Hart sought to start a Rock -n- Roll band. From there, he began working with songwriter Zac Maloy and borrowing fellow musicians from other bands on the material that would eventually become Burn Halo’s eponymously titled album. The album went on to reach number two on the Billboard Heatseeker Chart in 2009. Now in 2015, the band is comprised of Hart (vocals), Joey Roxx (lead guitar), Ryan Frost (rhythm guitar/backing vocals), Chris Bishop (bass), as well as John Duarte (drums), and they have released their third studio album, Wolves Of War.
Upon first listening to Wolves of War, it presents as an eclectic cacophony, full of sound and fury, but it is more than that. What is most respectable about this album is its composition. The layers in the tracks are deliberate and practical. There are moments where possible influences leak through and the roots begin to show a bit. While the body of the album is a force to be reckoned with, in the beginning “Wolves Of War” and “Dying Without You” demonstrate an electrifying and powerful dynamic that is highly compelling. Especially in “Dying Without You,” the development, composition, and timing excel at engaging the listener and triggering a variety of emotional responses. There is something vintage in the shape of Wolves Of War that has a lot to do with the tone of Hart’s voice and the effects he is able to engage from track to track. Underneath the layered studio effects there is rasp and grand in Hart’s voice that is undiluted and grainy. It is this grit that, like sandpaper against the smoothness of the instruments, buffs away pretense and offers some ingenuity to the mix.
While there are moments where the band falls prey to the radio Rock chasm of generality, they seem to cleverly dance around the pitfalls that others would careless trip into. As with any album, not every song is a star and Wolves of War is no exception. It is, however, worth mentioning that these guys exhibit beautiful orchestration in their technical precision and the string work of Frost and Roxx with the hearts of Duarte and Bishop alongside them. “Novocaine,” despite its hefty content, does not numb the sense, but rather piques them. It is entrancing in its melodies that draw in the listener and guitar work that seems to swirl around the ears. It is both pleading and liberating, but it is that dichotomy that makes it such an interesting listen. Following that up is the more severe “Enemy Inside,” that, unlike “Novocaine,” is a little less infectious, but just as intriguing. The mix of clean vocal and screams on this track, it is here that Hart’s vocal diversity shines with him conjuring up a spirit in the vein of M.Shadows for the inflexion that carries this track.
As the album winds to a close, “Will To Live” exhibits a kind of desperation and longing that is somber yet telling. “Until The End” bounces in with a determination and spirit that is catchy with a percussion lead. Finally, “You Are The Damned” finishes out the album with a mixture of vocal patterns almost reminiscent of Jacoby Shaddix and Hart’s own signature grit and grain. The arrangement of the chorus and breakdown distinguish this track from its predecessors as it is more succinctly established and more brutally delivered. There is more severity in the “You Are The Damned” as whole than is demonstrated in earlier tracks, but it goes to the overall effect of the song and is accompanied by a heroic guitar solo. The echoic vocal break and final choral rounds gives this seven minute opus an even more epic finish that is almost chilling.
Burn Halo has released a well-crafted, delightfully engaging, yet complex force with Wolves of War. Although it has its moments where they could have been more selective with song arrangement, overall, it impresses. Between the multiplicity of Hart’s vocal abilities, the emotive and cathartic journey in songs, and the instrumental dexterity of Duarte, Bishop, Frost and Roxx, this album had all the ingredients needed to excel. So, for its precision and passion, CrypticRock gives Wolves Of War 4 out of 5 stars.