War of Ages – Return to Life

By Lee Brown on April-23-2012 | Filed under Reviews | Tags : , , , , | Share

War of Ages – Return to Life
Score: 3/5Score: 3/5Score: 3/5Score: 3/5Score: 3/53
4.2 (19 votes)

Artist: War of Ages
Title: Return to Life
Label: Facedown Records
Release Date: 4/24/12
Reviewer: Lee Brown

Tracklisting:

  1. Immortal
  2. Redeemer
  3. Fallen Idol
  4. Silent Night
  5. M. E. B.
  6. Song of Solomon
  7. With Honor
  8. Psalms
  9. Final Act
  10. Unite

      Almost exactly two years after 2010’s Eternal, War of Ages blasts back with their latest title Return to Life. Ever since the announcement came that the Leroy and co. would be re-signing with Facedown, anticipation has been growing and growing for the follow up to what many consider War of Ages’ strongest effort yet.

Even with a cursory glance at the track names from last year’s record it was easy to discern that the theme of Eternal conveyed a sense of brokenness and serving Christ through the pain of the world. Immersing oneself in the messages from songs like “Collapse,” “Failure,” or “Your Betrayal” revealed a struggle against the world that could even end in feelings of defeat and failure. Enter Return to Life. In almost every way Return to Life serves as a counter-point to the more solemn messages found in Eternal.

Starting with the always amazing WOA cover art, this record delivers a message of rebirth, renewal, and restoration in every phrase, stanza, and every beat of the drum. If Eternal admitted that life can be hard and full of disappointments, Return to Life reminds the listener that we are dead to the world, and that Christ has conquered the powers of this world. Between this powerful message and War of Ages’ signature flavor of metal, the listener is practically forced to their feet, sword in hand, ready to reclaim what the enemy has stolen from us. This is exactly the message so many people need right now.

If you’ve followed War of Ages across any of their last 5 albums (counting their “rare” self-titled album), the musical style and sound of this new effort will not surprise you. Finding many similarities in tone and style to Arise and Conquer, this new album is distinctly WOA, though there are several points in the record where I was reminded of former label-mate No Innocent Victim (which is not a bad thing). Musically, there are few detours to be found this go-round. Whereas in Eternal there were elements of an updated form of rapcore provided by Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D. and some dual harmony on the AILD-featured tracks, Return to Life is straightforward in its presentation.

Don’t be misled by this, however, WOA always features some intense guitar work and inspired drumming, and Leroy’s passionate and often guttural vocals are always exactly what each track needs. Musically, they are always a cut above a large amount of other metal bands out there. That said, I would have loved to see a little more experimentation on this album to add that last little kick in the face of goodness. Though the message is strong and WOA is a cut above the pack all around, this album does not do enough sonically to distinguish itself from their past efforts.

Return to Life opens in “Immortal” with a snippet of a sermon speaking to the expectation of joy at the return of Christ which quickly bleeds into heavy guitars and the grand message, “We rise!” As an opening track, the style, intensity, and message of “Immortal” is more than fitting to give the listener an introduction to what they are in for across the album’s 10 tracks. “Redeemer” opens from the perspective of God asking, “Will you remember Me? Arise! Arise! Only truth will set you free.” “Redeemer” complements “Immortal” very well tonally and thematically.

One of the highlights of the album is the track “Silent Night.” Though it is not the post-hardcore reconstruction of a classic Christmas tune that I was hoping for when I first saw the title, the track itself is a standout with an ethereal lead-in to WOA’s classic pattern of challenging the listener to follow Christ with passion and fire. “M. E. B.” is the album’s “take a break with some instru-metal” track. “Song of Solomon” restores the pace after the brief break, and serves as one of two tracks which bears the name of a book of the Bible.

“Final Act,” carries an almost 80’s guitar metal styling meets WOA feel, which works quite well. The song itself ends abruptly with the battle cry/promise “We’ll never walk alone… God will bring rest,” which leads the listener into the “final rest” of the song “Unite.”

“Unite,” thematically, reminds me of the song of the same name by the O. C. Supertones, as it serves to light a fire under those who have been hiding in the darkness of the world’s shadow. As the final track, it encompasses the overall theme of the album, and is unrelenting in its challenge to the listener. What better way (and more fitting to War of Ages) than to end this album with a battle cry?

Overall: Return to Life doesn’t break much new ground musically for fan-favorite War of Ages. But, is this a bad thing when you’re ahead of the pack? As mentioned above, the message of this album is welcomed, needed, and well executed from start to finish. Fans of any of their past work will find a comfortable home in this new album and will quickly and devotedly find this as their new musical addiction.

Quick note: If you’ve been following IVM’s posts about the change in review scores, then, you’ll understand why this album is scored as it is. The score is a number. It represents that this album (musically) is on pace with other WOA albums, and other albums in this genre. Should you buy or not buy the album based on the review score alone? No. Read above, to get a better picture for yourself if this is a day one purchase for you or not. It certainly will be for me.

War of Ages - Return to Life, 4.2 out of 5 based on 19 ratings

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About the author Lee Brown

Lee Brown is Discipleship Pastor at Meadow Park Church in Columbus, OH. He is the author of "Here's How: An Introduction to Practical Discipleship," and is also an adjunct professor and content specialist for Mid-America Christian University. Most importantly, he is a loving husband and father. Lee loves jamming to bands like Blindside, Project 86, Demon Hunter, Spoken, Lecrae, and Lil' Dre. For more about Lee, be sure to visit www.KnightoftheSon.com. View all posts by Lee Brown

16 Responses to 'War of Ages – Return to Life'

  1. I wud hafta agree wit yur asesment/ review+ scor. Howeva, how come we cant rate albums ourselves like we cud in the past?

  2. MrM says:

    Seems awfully short to have an instrumental yet again :/ BLAHHH instrumentals :( Oh well, I did actually like “Instrumental” off Eternal, it’s kinda beautiful, and has it’s place

  3. Zac says:

    What is people’s problems with instrumentals? More often, they’re not fillers. Instrumentals can break an album, and even save it.

    Look at the classic crime’s “the ascent” in silver cord, people for some reason dont like it,but i think it sounds amazing.

    Songs aren’t always about vocals and words, there’s more to a band than the vocalist.

  4. Smacky X says:

    I think this is my favorite War of Ages album to date- it reminds me of the best parts of Pride of the Wicked.

    While I understand that this isn’t groundbreaking/pioneering stuff, I have read a couple of reviews that harp on the fact that it sounds like all their albums. It doesn’t to me. I mean, it is definitely War of Ages’ signature sound, but I don’t listen with the sense that “I’ve heard this four or five other times from them”

    Maybe it’s as simple as the way they mix the gang vocals/ singing/ and “rap-like” vocals with Leroy’s growlies, but in my opinion this album does feel considerably more diverse than their past ones. “Return to Life” also has more punch and bigger and better high points to me.

    By way of comparison, I love the new Demon Hunter album, but I think I like this better!

    • MrM says:

      So I’ve noticed a lot of people saying things like “rap-like”… What do his vocal stylings really sound like? Maybe a previous release of theirs..?

      And really? I’d rate True Defiance a 9/10 (4/5 doesn’t quite fit for me).. SuPeR PuMpEd FoR tHiS nOw!

    • Smacky X says:

      The brunt of his vocals are his burly man growls. The singing, gang vocals, and the talking/spoken-word parts are thrown in with more frequency than past albums, which adds more depth and diversity in the sense that songs don’t sound the same from beginning to end. (As I felt was the case with Eternal, as much as I liked it)

      The intro to “Silent Night” is an example of the “rap-like” stuff. See if you can give that a listen. On past releases, Leroy has done the talking thing: Spoken bridges in “Wages of Sin,” “Salvation,” and “Stone-by-Stone” are just three examples. I am having a harder time thinking of examples where Leroy does the more rap-sound vox, although I feel like there are a couple instance of it.

    • MrM says:

      Wow, love that intro to “Silent Night”! But I’m not listening to anymore until I get it! :P Thanks

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