August 26, 2019 Wage War – Pressure (Album Review)
The right amount of self-applied pressure causes growth. Proof positive of this concept, the beloved Wage War are set to deliver their highly-anticipated third studio album Pressure, and it arrives on Friday, August 30, 2019, via Fearless Records.
Few bands on the scene today enjoy the beloved reputation of Wage War, who one might say are a band’s band. Formed in 2010 in Ocala, Florida, the quintet made their 2015 debut with Blueprints, and with their star on the rise they delivered its follow-up, 2017’s Deadweight. With nearly 50 million cumulative streams in the past two years—the single “Stitch” alone has racked up 14 million streams on Spotify—the band has received praise from endless critics and fans alike. This has appreciation for their craft has allowed the determined road dogs to share stages with an endless list of bands, from A Day To Remember and Parkway Drive to I Prevail and Of Mice & Men.
Having weathered the whirlwind of the past few years, Wage War—Vocalist Briton Bond, Guitarist Seth Blake, Guitarist/Vocalist Cody Quistad, Bassist Chris Gaylord, and Drummer Stephen Kluesener—entered the studio to record their third full-length under a spell of self-imposed pressure to progress their sound, and to deliver a benchmark album that truly represents who Wage War are. Produced by the exceptional Drew Fulk (Motionless In White, Lil Peep), the 12-song aptly-titled Pressure surpasses this goal and elevates the band to the next level.
Pressure opens with ferocious grit from Bond on glitzy first track “Who I Am,” which alternates between heavy, technically proficient verses and epic, arena ready choruses worthy of massive sing-alongs. And keyboard warriors of the interwebs can feel free to take the track as a reminder that we’re all human, not just characters placed on display for one another’s amusement. This segues the quintet into the pulsating sonics that open thrumming rocker “Prison,” a frustrated observation of being trapped inside your own skin. Blegh!
Infectious from the get-go, “Grave” goes big on melodies as it lyrically condemns toxic individuals who are happily trapped in their egocentric cycles. Lyrically, the emphasis is in understanding that these people will not change, and therefore we have to walk away and save ourselves. Next, blistering guitar fury alights “Ghost,” with Bond’s bestial growls leading the band through violent verses to reach soaring, Quistad-fronted choruses. If you’re here for the intense, moshpit-inspiring side of Wage War, this is a guaranteed stand-out!
The flipside of that coin is “Me Against Myself,” a melodic rocker with a radio-friendly approach that is apt to appeal to fans of the band’s 2018 “Stripped” tracks (“Gravity,” “Johnny Cash”). An anthem for mental health and admitting that it’s okay not to be okay, the track is guaranteed to pass along hope as it incites undeniably catchy sing-alongs. Continuing on this vein, “Hurt” offers a moving, emotional plea for the pain to go away.
In case you are worrying that the band has gone soft, “Low” kicks it way back up with pummeling bass as Quistad asks, “Who will save me when I can’t save myself?” Then, starting out with a funky beat, “The Line” will have you banging your head as you dance. Meanwhile, the merciless war cry of “Fury” opens to a Slipknot-esque assault then builds into the empowering defiance of “Forget My Name.”
Fight song “Take the Fight” begins a meandering journey through quasi-political lyrics and a bass-slamming groove that twists into a lofty motivational promise, paving the way for the album’s epic finale. That insightful ending, “We Will Never Lean,” blends every single individual element that is heard throughout Pressure, crafting a final offering that wraps the collection up with a perfectly-styled, glittering bow.
Wage War have always been a band with exceptional promise, though in the past they have possessed a penchant for somewhat formulaic presentations. Well, hold onto your butts, because Pressure wipes the slate clean and goes bold with both incendiary headbanging and undeniable melodies, showcasing the perfectly juxtaposed yin and yang of the band’s personality. Embracing the light and the dark—of their music and the world around them—they explore the emotional struggles involved in being human in 2019, and do so with a penchant for hope that keeps the discussion positive. What that all boils down to is simple: Pressure is a proud representation of Wage War and proof positive that this is a band you should know! For this, Cryptic Rock give this album 4.5 of 5 stars.