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Some deathcore bands have breakdowns, other ones will have breakdowns to space out the other breakdowns, then there are bands like I Declare War. While this statement does lean a bit on the hyperbole, it's pretty difficult to deny that what comprises the self-titled 2011 descent into minimalist drudgery is rivaled by few in the department of space-occupying idea fragments passed off as sections. Picture the most utterly mechanical aspects of latter day Whitechapel, multiply them by a factor of about 5, add in a newly recruited vocalist with very little charisma and a one-dimensional approach to complement largely one-dimensional music, and what is heard is something that couldn't be more aptly depicted visually then how it is here, with a guy hanging himself.
Attempting to disseminate the songwriting process here is largely an exercise in cliche, mixed with some really bad attempts at variation that simply replace one type of monotony with one or two others. The most tepidly obvious example of this is "The Dot", a bad attempt at meshing cosmology and philosophy with a style best fit for those who have little interest in the former or most of the latter, which also attempts to redress the horridly banal abundance of slow chugging with annoying pinch harmonics that would even make Robby Flynn wince in pain. Occasionally a guitar solo is attempted as well, with similarly boring and contrived results as what Job For A Cowboy would attempt when trying to sound more like a traditional death metal band, though at least this album makes no attempts to wrap itself in old school garbs and is honest about its intent.
Saving graces on this album are pretty much non-existent, as are any real moments of intrigue or climax. One thing that is arguably the band's strong suit is the drum work, which while bound to a very predictable formula, does occasionally show signs of life during faster sections and doesn't shy away from doing some fancy fills when called for. However, the heavily mechanical guitar work and virtually non-existent bass (buried in the mix and always following the guitars) makes for a truly boring template that all the Flo Mounier worship in the world couldn't possibly save. Newly recruited vocalist Jamie Hanks only further aggravates this contrived tendency in the format by sticking to a uniform grunt scream that has a pronounced bottom end, but no sense of growth or dynamics and just coasts in a straight line.
While I've never been the biggest fan of deathcore as a whole, there have been some exemplary acts within the style that have caused me to give the style a bit more consideration. This album, by contrast, exudes every single annoying aspect of the style from a sheer lack of depth to a willful refusal to develop upon a very rudimentary/skeleton approach. It actually reminds a bit of someone who spends their entire life being pissed off about everything and, as a result, ends up with nobody caring because any sense of effect is lost when something truly revolting occurs. Picture person 1 saying "I saw a cat the other day, and it pissed me off. Then my shoelaces came untied, and that pissed me off even more! Hey, did you hear that we're about to start an undeclared war with Libya? That pisses me off most of all!!!" To which, person 2 simply shrugs and walks away. Thus concludes the story of I Declare War.
Oh boy the new Oceano album, I can't wait. Hey wait, when did Oceano change their name to I Declare War? Oh wait that's right I Declare War is a completely different band. But they sound just like Oceano. And Oceano sound just like Whitechapel. So I Declare War are a clone of a clone. Deathcore has never been particularly original but at least a few bands manage to stand out through sheer skill. I Declare War have none of that. This band would rather do everything that's already been done before and make it seem even more stagnant.
This album has about 3 breakdowns for every riff and those riffs could've been taken from Oceano's first album "Depths". While I Declare War's earlier efforts are notably more breakdown packed than most deathcore, the band have truly gone all out with the chugging on this one. The guitarist attempts solos on a couple tracks, but they aren't anything special or notable. The bass can surprisingly be heard but it just follows the guitars all the time, so it's barely worth mentioning.
The drumwork consists of double bass fills and blast beats and is probably the only aspect of this album that has had any real thought put into it, even it is pretty standard for the style.
The vocalist is a carbon copy of Adam Warren from, you guessed it, Oceano. He sounds exactly the same, like he is deliberately copying him. The lyrics have also turned from previous themes such as politics and corruption to anti-religious rants not unsimilar to Rose Funeral and Thy Art Is Murder and twice as amateurish.
If I Declare War planned to go into a more deathcore direction it suddenly makes a lot more sense that previous vocalist Jon Huber jumped ship to Pathology to play actual brutal music. You're honestly better off listening to Oceano, the band IDW completely ripped off on this album. Better yet, listen to early Whitechapel (stay away from their new stuff, it's the exact same thing you'll find here)
I Declare War is one of those longlost deathcore bands that stayed underground until finally gaining their recognition with their 2010 album Malevolence. Now, don't get me wrong, this band I think is great and meaty but for years upon years I believe that part of them not being as popular as brother deathcore acts such as Chelsea Grin, Whitechapel or Carnifex is mainly because they were, for so long, unable to really appeal to the right audience or sound how they want to. Personally, I've known of this band since 2009 and even then I just thought their music was only decent. But ever since ditching their previous vocalist (Jonathan Huber) and finding a frontman who suits the band MUCH better than their previous singer ever could, I can only wonder… how much more popular would this band be like if they found Jamie Hanks years ago?
So on this LP, the band really show off more of a "tough guy, I'm back in town" kind of attitude and not to mention, a groundbreakingly heavy and innovative sound that they never played before. The album's opening track "I, Tormentor" come in with a barrage of IDW's renown trademark style of riffing coupled with blast beats and Hanks' distinctive growling style. It almost occurs by this song's second or so VERY catchy breakdown is that they've gotten much more comfortable with their songwriting and what they want to sound like. However, things don't truly get good until "Misery Cloud". The album's second track starts off the clearly intelligible growling of the sentence "THEY CAME, THEY FUCKING CONQUERED" (obviously placed in the song all for the sake of the song's hype while being played live) and while most of this track puts in about 70% more chugging than the first track did, it's memorable, fun, brutal and catchy as fuck.
Speaking of chugging, you'll unfortunately hear that a bit more on this release than I Declare War's past albums, but at least it's done in a good cause if you make believe you're listening to Meshuggah or other extreme metal bands that aren't afraid to wail on the strings every now and then. The guitarwork definitely isn't all that bad, there's even a guitar solo in "Pillow Talk". As for bass guitar, the album is thankfully mastered in a way that you can hear that if you keep an ear out for it. I also have to give kudos to the producer that it's not overly mastered and irritatingly loud as it was on Malevolence.
Drumming is your typical metal drumming, he pulls off some excellent double bass kicks and never overuses blast beats. When you're in an extreme metal band like I Declare War, I could imagine you'd be looking for variety in playing your instrument from album to album so he'll put in a fill every now and then but nothing that will catch your ear so much as while you're hearing Hanks growling away over roaring guitars.
Overall, this is definitely I Declare War's best record and is probably an absolute blast to hear them play songs from it live. I would definitely recommend picking this record up.