Three months back I attempted to review War is Hell, but something more pressing came up to displace the debut full-length from The Warriors from atop my review pile. On occasion after occasion, I passed over reviewing the album in favor of something else. Then, last week I took in a show that The Warriors happened to be playing and it reminded me of the forgotten album. So I decided to pull the album off its categorized spot on my CD rack and finally sit down and put my thoughts into words.
This album kicks off with "Slings and Arrows," a song that has strong leanings toward metallic hardcore but with a little extra pizzazz of metal flair in the guitars - a reasonable comparison that comes to mind is the first A Perfect Murder EP. And while this description is fitting for this track and rare moments later in the album, "War is Hell" and "Safety Off," the majority of War is Hell takes a different approach.
With the help of half-rhymed half-screamed vocals such as those found on "Red, Black, and Blue," the music ventures in a new direction - imagine Rage Against the Machine hopped up on steroids. The Warriors partner grooving rhythms and crunching riffs with vocalist Marshall Licthenwaldt's unique vocal stylings - sometimes rhyming like a junior version of Zach de la Rocha, while at others his shrieking screams send chills down the spine. The band reuses this formula throughout the album.
Cuts like "Tight Rope," "Transistor," and "Scene Celebrity" continue to steer War is Hell with aggressive bass-playing, smooth flowing drumming, and Licthenwaldt's distinctive vocals. In an attempt to distinguish these songs, The Warriors incorporate modern breakdowns and every hardcore kids' favorite, sing-a-longs, into these songs. Despite their efforts, these songs fail to deviate from niche the band has carved, thus making them difficult to tell apart.
One thing that did upset me about the album is that there weren't more songs like "Lightning Strikes." This song is easily the best on the album, not to mention it stands out because it is different sounding. The drumming leads the song, the guitars take a backseat, and the vocals are delivered in a traditional hardcore manner. When it's all pieced together, you've got a killer fast-paced hardcore tune with a tasteful breakdown at the end.
The Warriors have definitely delivered an original release in War is Hell. I can't really say there is a band out there doing what they do; I haven't heard anything along these line since Downset's Do We Speak a Dead Language?. But even though this album is unique, I think the band still has a few kinks to work out in order to narrow down what it is they do best.