Label: Metal Blade
Release date: July 9, 2013
Battlecross is a recent addition (2011) to the Metal Blade Records family and since their inception, they have been steadily traveling the road to great success. Their debut, Pursuit of Honor, was a favorite release of mine back in 2011 and is one of those records I like to put in my car cd player every once in a while. This was becoming more frequent as the days were counting down to the release of their newest album, War of Will. I have been spinning this record on a daily basis since I’ve obtained it, and for good reason.
Battlecross play a style of “blue collar thrash metal” that can easily be described as a mix of melodic thrash and death metal, saturated with influences from both American and European metal. This sound is also very accessible for those that are starting to get into metal as well as those who are seasoned as well. Because of this, as well as some good managing, Battlecross have obtained major festival appearances (2013 Mayhem Festival, Trespass America, and the very popular Orion Music + More) as well as tours alongside major name acts such as In Flames, Trivium, Demon Hunter, and more.
When it came to this new album, I had high expectations. Pursuit of Honor was an album that came off as well put together and a great debut effort, but was very much a “grower” album when compared to other albums of that year. When bands meet this kind of success and start following the lines of the “mainstream”, you can’t help but feel that the music could change drastically or just lack that oomph it once had. This isn’t the case with War of Will, as the band has evolved and improved their sound more so than where my expectations were set at.
The album was produced by Mark Lewis (Trivium, DevilDriver, Chimaira) and Jason Suecof (Whitechapel, Motionless in White, Job For a Cowboy). The latter also laid down a guest solo. Armored Saint‘s Joey Vera mastered the album.
“Force Fed Lies” leads the charge, and in my opinion comes off as one of the few weaker songs. Not saying that it is bad but I felt that this was quite the change of sound from their previous. Many fans were pointing out that it had a Slayer-esque quality to it, but I’m not really able to make that comparison myself as I’m not much of a fan. I was somewhat hesitant going further into this album, but I press on.
“Flesh and Bone” changes everything around for me. Guitarists Tony Asta and Hiran Deraniyagala pull out all the stops with their recognizable tone and riffs, while adding in more of their influences that weren’t present in their previous works. More melody is brought into the fray with riffs that resemble that of Children of Bodom and similar acts. These are apparent in the beginning and other sporadic sections. Bassist Don Slater is very noticeable on this record as well, showing off his chops, serving as one of two pieces of the rhythm foundation. Shannon Lucas forms the other half of this and shows why he is the perfect stand-in session drummer for the job. Not many drummers could take the place of Mike Kreger and that should definitely be known.
“Never Coming Back” is one of the shorter tracks. Short, simple, and to the point. A small variation in some structure but this is a great contrast to the other contributions. Kyle Gunther demonstrates his beastly vocals, easily transitioning from the high “shrieky” death vocals to the low, bellowing roars. I don’t even know how he is capable of such feats, but he pulls them off in a flawless fashion.
“My Vaccine” steps it down a notch, bringing in more of the meatier, darker riffs especially in the beginning. There is an epic feel after the first chorus of the track that makes this one of my favorites. The solo section is somewhat short-lived but it works out in their favor. “My Vaccine” is another addition to the longer tracks that Battlecross has written and doesn’t have that dragging effect.
“Get Over It” is a five-minute ferocious and feral piece that keeps up with the meaty riffs and more of Kyle’s roars. This album contains many favorites and is becoming increasingly difficult to pick a handful of tracks I DON’T like. Even just halfway through War of Will, Battlecross have written their best album to date.
War of Will looks to be on the top lists of the year, much like their first Metal Blade Records effort, Pursuit of Honor. Battlecross have forged an album that comes off as immediately catchy and still a “grower” album at the same time. Although there are other albums this year that have impressed me more so than this release, I also like to see bands coming back with improved sound and writing.
Even though I say a lot of good things, there are always going to be a few other characteristics to point out. I still think these guys can tighten up their sound. War of Will is an improvement for sure but I am hoping they use this experience to further themselves even more in future releases. Also, there are a few calm moments in the album (intros for the most part) but I am hoping they will start writing some tracks that really change the momentum instead of SLIGHTLY slowing or quickening it.
War of Will is a definite must have addition to the collection, alongside that memorable Pursuit of Honor. Go check this release out as soon as you can, as I promise it won’t disappoint.