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WAGE WAR Stigma

By Breezy Bird, Idaho Contributor
Sunday, July 7, 2024 @ 11:42 AM


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WAGE WAR
Stigma

Fearless Records




A few weeks ago, I eagerly took on the assignment of reviewing the newest release by WAGE WAR titled Stigma. The quintet from Florida consists of Briton Bond on lead vocals, rhythm guitarist Cody Quishad, Seth Blake on lead guitar, bassist Chris Gaylord, and Stephen Kleusener on drums. In their fifth full-length album, they set out to "not only push their own sound forward, but they also propel heavy music into new territory". I think they definitely accomplished their goal with this offering.

In all transparency, I'm not what you would consider a fan of the band, although I do enjoy the songs I've heard on the radio. Even though they have been releasing albums for nearly a decade, somehow they have managed to fly under my radar. I guess you could say I am a WAGE WAR virgin. At any rate, I received the link and immediately gave it a listen. At first take, the production and sound stood out as clean and crisp making it easy on the ears. There's nothing worse than listening to an album that sounds like it was created in Uncle Eddie's motorhome. Producer Drew Fulk did a masterful job! As I worked through the songs, I found myself perplexed by the incongruency of the album. I honestly felt like I was listening to a shuffled playlist consisting of several artists.

It's taken me a hot minute to decide exactly how I wanted to approach this review. In the end, I decided that rather than starting at the beginning of the album and going song by song, I will group the songs together based on their similar sound. While the album is short, consisting of 10 songs and totaling 31 minutes in duration, it doesn't feel abbreviated.

The first grouping is groove metal with its heavy influence from bands like STATIC-X and POWERMAN 5000. The opening song on the album, "The Show is About to Start" leads in with a bit of an industrial vibe but emphatically transitions into a gritty guitar riff reminiscent of old school WHITE ZOMBIE. It's the type of song that will get the pit raging right out of the gates! "Happy Hunting" has a power and drive reminiscent of STATIC-X's hit "Push It". It balances an electronic groove with syncopated growling all layered on top of haunting alarm reminiscent of "The Purge". The final song with a groove metal vibe is "In My Blood". Of the three songs, it is the one song that seems to meld the entire album together. It strikes a pleasing balance between the groove metal, industrial metal, and nu metal/metalcore genres.

The next grouping is the hybrid of heavy industrial and electronic metal of bands like NINE INCH NAILS and RAMMSTEIN. "Self Sacrifice". a song about betrayal and its ultimately fatal consequences, has a catchy chanting chorus that is accentuated by a driving drum beat and epic metal screams. Then, there is "Nail5", a dark song with a haunting chorus that is sure to plant an earworm inside your brain. It reminds me of creepy children's folklore rhymes like "Ring Around The Rosie". You can't help but to be drawn to the visual imagery created in your mind as the lyrics "Bones lay to waste, let 'em rot with the maggots" is chanted over and over. "Tombstone" starts out with a mellow and ominous introduction of what sounds like it could be Native American powwow drums. Just as you think you know what you're in for, all hell breaks loose! This song is filled with guttural growls, emphatic drums, driving guitar riffs. It's savage!

The final grouping is the more palatable metalcore type of music that is currently getting heavy airplay on rock stations across the nation. The first release from the album, "Magnetic", is what I thought WAGE WAR was all about until I wrote this review. It's a song that blends a catchy and emotional chorus with a hummable guitar line. This is the perfect recipe for broad appeal and likeability. "Blur" and "Is This How it Ends" also rely on the magic formula that is likely to make them instant chart toppers. "Hellbent", my favorite song on the album, has a captivating sound that draws you in from start to finish. The meaningful lyrics are thoughtfully combined with the right balance of guitar, drums and scream.

After about a dozen listens (thank goodness it was a short album), I found Stigma to be like a scoop of Neapolitan ice cream, offering something different for everyone tastefully combined together in one package.

3.6 Out Of 5.0


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