After obtaining their highest critical praise yet for their previous album, “Eternal” produced by Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying, does Return to Life elevate the band even further?
In a quick word, no it doesn’t. Although I say that as someone who never sat down and listened to Eternal all the way through, having only heard the album as others played it. Everyone I know thought it was their best album yet and absolutely loved it. And what I’ve heard was very good. I actaully own the album but have never sat down and listened to it fully. FOR SHAME.
So take that info for what you will.
“Return to Life” from War of Ages sounds like a “return to form” for the album, and maybe that was partly what inspired the title. This album sounds exactly the way the band used to sound on albums like “Pride of the Wicked”, “Fire From the Tomb” and “Arise & Conquer” (all three of which I own, Eternal was the only album of theirs I never got around to buying; even though I intended to pre-order it). If you loved what you heard on those records, then you are sure to dig “Return to Life”.
Basically their sound is exactly the same on those albums and to my untrained ear sounds exactly like they have always sounded. And to me that makes this album sound as forgettable as their previous releases. To me, while I love me some random War of Ages, I could not name you a single song from past albums if a gun was put to my head. Everything simply blends in with each other and no tracks feel distinctive. While that is not a flaw in and of itself necessarily (it depends on what kind of music you are looking for), I do think it is a knock against the album. It simply means that the album has not elevated them any. I don’t know about you, but I always want my albums to be memorable and to impress, and I didn’t feel that on this album DESPITE a few standout tracks (virtually of them towards the end of the album. The last three all kill it in particular).
In the end, I give the album 6 out of 10 stars. Which means it’s “above average”. Harsh? Maybe… but I feel like it was a disappointing album and I feel like it is a stepback from Eternal. Even though I never sat down and listened to Eternal, that album felt much more distinctive from what I recall. This album almost feels like an album that was recorded with production that wasn’t as high as on Eternal… even though that’s not the case, but that’s the kind of vibe I get. Like I said, a step back.
Having said that, here is my breakdown of each track from “Return to Life” as I listened to them. It’s also important to note that I didn’t have lyrics in my review copy from the publisher, and could not find lyrics ANYWHERE online. I’m bugging the publisher to send them to me, so hopefully they will. Regardless though, I have listened to enough of War of Ages to be able to hear Leroy Hamp’s words and understand them without any real problems. Typically though I will NOT listen to a metal record if I don’t have the lyrics.
Song #1 – Immortal (4:00)
The first track is a powerful opener, although its not until the guitar solo of the song that I really jumped out my seat and found the song amazing. The lyrics are pretty good from what I can tell and I really love the shouting on this track. Overall this is a good song, but it sounds exactly like what you think War of Ages should sound like and nothing more… and I really hesitate to say it is great. As the first half of the song is kinda forgettable. I love the sermon opener though.
Song #2 – Redeemer (4:08) [Buy War of Ages Redeemer On Amazon]
ARISE ARISE! This song starts out with some singing interspersed with shouts of “Arise, only truth shall set you free” and starts off on an interesting foot for War of Ages. From there it goes into more typical territory, while also featuring more singing than you expect from the band. It’s an interesting mix. This song really gets rockin’ once the guitar solo kicks in, and the chorus really grows on you. Overall this is a singable piece and a great one overall. I love the end portions more than the rest of the song, but it really ends with a BANG! As well as a very nice, soft piano outro. HIGHLIGHT.
Song #3 – Fallen Idol (3:58)
Another song that starts out with some metalcore singing. I like the singing in this intro a lot. The vocal style of the screaming also sounds unique to me during the opening sections. I love the melody once the vocals stop and it goes into an instrumental section, the music just sounds AMAZING. This song is a definite HIGHLIGHT if only for that section.
Song #4 – Silent Night (4:19)
“As your world starts to crumble, becoming a battleground, will you stay silent? Where is your faith now?” That’s the opening line of this song, and a theme it returns to throughout and part of the chorus. It’s a cool line and really carries the whole track. Outside of that memorable line however, “Silent Night” doesn’t feel any more distinctive than any other songs on the album, and sounds like your typical War of Ages song. As with some of the previous tunes, I think this song much improves in the latter portion following the guitar solo.
Song #5 – M.E.B. (Instrumental) (1:46)
Sadly I wasn’t given the lyrics to this album for my review copy, and they are impossible to find online… So I can’t tell you what “M.E.B.” may mean or stand for. Despite that little fact, this song is, contrary to all appearances, AN INSTRUMENTAL track! It is a very slow, acoustic and beautiful one at that. It’s one of those pretty songs that gets your spirit and emotions running because it’s so beautiful. A HIGHLIGHT for sure.
Song #6 – Song of Solomon (3:29)
A very heavy but sung intro starts this one off with a bang. Which leads quickly into the vocals you know and love (or hate). A typical fast-paced War of Ages track once the vocals kick in. “You’re words will fall on the strength of man”. All of the yelling and the way the vocals are screamed in time with it makes this song almost have a punk feel. Of course, it’s all metal all the way. Overall I feel like this is a really “meh” song. Nothing exciting here, sadly. I was hoping for more given the title of the track… Moving on.
Song #7 – With Honor (4:08)
An extremely quick pace is how this song explodes into your ears, with a driving sound. Kinda reminds me of an As I Lay Dying track. The vocals also sound more deliberate here, which is refreshing after Song of Solomon. Overall, compared to the previous track, this song sounds a lot tighter and like everything fits together. This is another song with a sung chorus. After the second verse you get some really cool, almost acoustic stuff going on. Which really elevates this track and makes it a real standout. A definitive HIGHLIGHT.
Song #8 – Psalms (3:50)
I’ve yet to finish the album but this is arguably the best song on the whole CD. That’s despite the extremely weak opening. I’ve always hated when bands “talk” in songs. Taken as a whole though, this song is excellent and it really picks up after the first verse once the sung chorus kicks in. But that the song really shines when Leroy’s screamed vocals without backing music goes off, and it really nails the song home IMHO. After that it’s all up from there and transitions into an outstanding musical portion. A definite HIGHLIGHT.
Song #9 – Final Act (3:27)
WOW. If there is a single song that redeems this album whole-cloth, it would be Final Act. This song starts off with an amazing intro which is one of the greatest I’ve ever heard. I take that back about Psalms, I think “Final Act” may be the real standout on this album. The main theme of the song is simply outstanding, and it’s played a few times throughout the song. Overall this is an excellent track and a real HIGHLIGHT.
Song #10 – Unite (3:11)
This song starts off with another KILLER intro. The vocals in this song are OUTSTANDING, and sound a lot better than most of the album. This song has a heavier feel to it vocally, along with awesome music. The “UNITE!” chorus is also very cool. Overall this song just sounds extremely tight and is by far the best track on the album. The biggest HIGHLIGHT of “Return to Life” is definitely the closer. I would say the final three tracks are the best this album has to offer by far.
Overall, if you are a fan of War of Ages, pick this album up. Just don’t expect anything mindblowing or for it to top Eternal. But if you like their previous sound on past albums, you may enjoy the album. If not, “Return to Life” from War of Ages definitely won’t change your opinion.
War of Ages has been a staple of the Christian metal scene for nearly a decade and is easily one of the hardest working metal bands in the scene. Constantly touring and constantly putting out new work, War of Ages is as metal as metal gets, with fast-paced, technical musicianship that really makes the band stand out amongst the Christian metal scene. Signed to Facedown Records in 2006, the band has morphed into one of their premier acts and has shared the stage with a number of high profile Christian metalers from As I Lay Dying to Demon Hunter to UnderOath to P.O.D., Becoming the Archetype and Living Sacrifice, as well as Norma Jean, Between the Buries and Me and Soilwork. But the band really turned heads once the Tim Lambesis produced Eternal hit, their second album produced by As I Lay Dying’s frontman and his studio. Of course, their awesome and incredible metal album covers have gotten them noticed just as often as their touring or beastly sound. Additionally, frontman Leroy Hamp has a very distinctive scream… even though it doesn’t sound like anything special, it also doesn’t sound like anyone else and is immediately recognizable as War of Ages. And his vocals have only improved throughout the years.
War of Ages Discography:
Unite Us All – (2004, Independent EP)
War of Ages – (2005, Strike First Records)
Pride of the Wicked – (2006, Facedown Records)
Fire from the Tomb – (2007, Facedown Records) Re-release and re-recording remaster of the self titled album.
Arise and Conquer – (2008, Facedown Records)
Eternal (2010, Facedown Records)
Return to Life – (2012) April 24, 2012 (Facedown Records)
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