Wage War, Ded and Thornhill Live at the Key Club, Leeds 15th January

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The Key Club is something of a staple in the north of the United Kingdom. Many bands of varying degrees of notability and notoriety have trodden the boards of the hallowed stage and created raucous rackets through the PA, generally going down as one of the better nights of their various tours. Tonight, The Key Cub bears witness to Wage War – a bright spark in the world of modern metalcore – on tour in support of their third record, Pressure, alongside Australian outfit, Thornhill and nu-metalcore bruisers, Ded.

Thornhill start proceedings in reasonable fashion. Though their lead singer, Jacob Charlton, does a decent job with melodious and lush clean leads, his harsher vocals are shrill barks akin to Stray from the Path but lacking the muscle necessary to make a dent in the already sizeable crowd. Musically the band play a heavily down-tuned bludgeon of alternative tinged metalcore with similarities ranging from Loathe to Architects, and do so proficiently. However, based on tonight’s performance it feels as though the requisite fire isn’t in anyone’s bellies. The motion is limited and feels rehearsed based on what every other metalcore band does – see the finger guns alongside the bouncier material – and the passion seems to wane throughout, despite a portion of the audience being on side for much of the set. A somewhat uninspiring but nonetheless enjoyable set in need of some fine tuning, the Melbourne-born quintet needn’t be disappointed with the evening’s events, they just need to liven up a bit. [5]

Ded talk a big talk. A cursory look at the information available online speaks to a band with either a knack for self-promotion, amorous fans or a PR earning their pay cheque. So, what’s all the fuss? A band with singles each totalling over one million plays on YouTube and tours with the likes of Korn and Stone Sour. Sounds like the real deal, doesn’t it? Arriving on stage in quasi-corpse paint the band launch into their derivative wrestle metal that has glaring overtones of death knell-era nu-metal. Doesn’t exactly scream ‘intimidating’ so much as meta-headed bravado, but these caveats aside, the band are incredibly professional, riling up the crowd into a jumping frenzy of fun times had by most. Mantras like “I won’t be a slave” don’t scream profundity – the band trade far more in profanity – but they do speak to a band that can connect to an audience en masse with broad strokes of generic ideation that makes people feel less alone. It’s admirable, but does feel cynically like what Papa Roach did decades earlier. It doesn’t feel like there’s a sincere emotion emanating from the stage at any point. Sincerity doesn’t always sell but huge bouncy choruses do so Ded’ll continue to do well being a thoroughly average band for people with less discerning taste. [5]

Bold, brash and uncompromising. The qualities lacking in the opening acts are fulfilled by the evening’s headliners; Wage War; they are a band bound by fraternity and sincerity with their Architects-y metalcore pummelling a sold out venue into welcome submission. From the off, material from latest album, Pressure, is reacted to as if the songs were years old, dyed in the wool fan favourites with the Leeds attendees spiritedly screaming Wage War’s words back at them. Who I Am proves a wonderful opener, all heavy throw downs and gorgeous clean vocals that are nowhere near as irksome as their recorded counterparts, while Don’t Let Me Fade Away from Deadweight as the third song kicks the night into high gear. The already obliging crowd go berserk much to the outfit’s glee. You can see that the Floridians relish the live setting and they are mightily capable entertainers, the at-capacity crowd responding to every clenched fist and thrown punch.

It’s telling how far the band have progressed as song writers without necessarily evolving their formula. Being formulaic is not synonymous with being poor as when a band finds their niche it’s only natural they would stick to it. In Wage War’s case, the Architects derived music – a comparison not helped by the frequent BLEGHS on record – hasn’t changed all that much over three albums, but the band have got progressively tighter, leaner and more expert in their craft. You’d be hard pushed to find many better metalcore acts at their level active today. Even tawdry balladry like Me Against Myself doesn’t hamper the night.

While material from debut LP, Blueprints, elicits a massive response, the majority of their set’s finest moments are in the up-tempo material with the shredding masterclass of Alive proving the first of many highlights. It’s difficult to imagine Wage War having an off day, and even at their worst they would be punishingly professional with a nous for their chosen sub-genre that is seemingly intrinsic to the quintet’s DNA. The evening was a glimpse into the future of modern metalcore, and for fans of the currently massive outfits out there – your Architects, Parkways etc. – there is a bright spark glimmering over the horizon. Success will surely come Wage War’s way so long as there are passionate metalcore fans about, and that doesn’t seem like a market about to crash any time soon. They’ve put in a clear amount of graft and now seem to be on the cusp of reaping their rewards. [7.5]

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