It's rare and refreshing to see a band as consistent as Pennsylvania's hardcore outfit, War of Ages. Since 2003, they've been writing in-your-face metal, with even more upfront lyrics. What's even more impressive is seeing them subtly grow in every facet throughout the years, whether it be in technical aptitude, or lyrical depth. When JFH recently honored the 25th anniversary of Facedown Records, (which you can read here), War of Ages was the name consistently mentioned by all participants. And for good reason, as they are almost certainly the most notable band in the record label's history. That's high praise for a rather nuts and bolts band. But there's a lot to be said for consistency, especially in the constantly turning over world of music. With War of Ages, you know what you're gonna get, and there's a certain comfort to that, especially when the products keep coming in better than the last. Though they never disappoint, the last few albums, Void, and most recently, 2019's Rhema EP, have shown the band ever increasing in songwriting depth. Enter Dominon, a concept album based on the book of Revelation, which acts as a perfect pallet for the label juggernaut to prove they're still atop the field.
With the trademark yells of frontman Leroy Hamp, "Famine" urgently leads us into a world of judgement and beasts. A haunting lead guitar utilizes an Egyptian sounding scale to disorient the mind, while quick bursts of rhythm mimic a horse's fast gallup. It's hard to overstate how useful musical cues like these can be in transporting you to another world, or even another time in history. These choices show the band's hyper-awareness, and brings the entire experience up a level. "Dominus" has a more inviting feel, especially the worshipful chorus which brought to mind more praise-oriented acts from Facedown, like For Today and Sleeping Giant. Even better is that the singable chorus does not seem forced in the least, seeing as its very words fall directly into the outline of the book of Revelation, making the context all the more connected... "Holy, holy, Lord God almighty/before your throne who was and is to come/forever You are the sole creator/every knee will bow before You."
"Armageddon" is perhaps the heaviest song the band has ever written, reminding me more of newer Impending Doom. Opening to a horror-themed keyboard and a gnarly drop-tuned riff, Hamp turns in the vocal performance of his life, using harsh shrills akin to black metal, and an urgency unlike anything we've heard from him before. "Death" follows suit, using a creepy high-pitched pip to depict the fate of the one not covered in Christ's blood..."You are the angel of death/standing at the feet of the fallen one/seizing every soul abandoned, never once sealing yourself in His blood." Now would be a good time to mention Steve Brown's exquisite lead guitar, as he effortlessly glides between thrashy riffs, atmospheric harmonies, and even some jazz infused solos. His wide range of influences make for a well-rounded sound and keep away from the constant sludge of many modern metal bands. Check out the ethereal background he creates during the breakdown in "War."
Though it may be the band's heaviest work to date, there are beautiful moments amidst the chaos, such as the cry for revival for the stagnant church of "Laodicea." Even though the band never explicitly states it, you get the sense this need stretches well beyond the 1st century church... "Holy Spirit come/refine through fire/never ending hope in times of darkness."
The album's one flaw is that it never actually finishes the apocalyptic vision. Perhaps this was intended, to enhance the imminence of these potential horrors, and compel the listener to number their days. However, I can't help but see a missed opportunity to close the album as the Scripture does, portraying the new heavens and earth, with all its hope. Especially noting the band is not immune to showing its softer side, a lighter track, or even an instrumental, could have gone a long way to provide contrast and closure to such a glorious vision. Perhaps I'm being a little greedy, though. As it stands, Dominion shows War of Ages continuing to be uncompromising in their faith, and still improving on themselves now two decades into their career. This is a strong contender for metal album of the year.- Review date: 9/25/23, written by Joel Zaloum of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Facedown Records
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