From the first meandering notes of the opening bass groove melting into the guitar line, it seems that War On TV is attempting to craft something unique and contemporary while embracing the spirit of the mid-nineties. The eponymous release conjures aromas of Soundgarden, American Football, and Coheed and Cambria but has no intent of being a relic of the past despite the familiar styles and sounds. War On TV on first listen through was an easter egg hunt of sounds keeping me second guessing about just what was going to happen next, and while I had a difficult time pinning down exactly what this record was genre-wise, it wasn’t difficult to imagine what sort of audience would love this release.
The opening track “Pornography” set the tone for the record in stone (although by no means enforcing a sonic template) by weaving different moods and styles of music into just under four minutes of runtime. Without seeming tedious, “Pornography” carries the feel of a six or seven minute song despite its average runtime largely due to its artful sectioning and transitions. Opening up with the tact and delicacy of an early Cursive track punctuated by a tease of whats coming, “Pornography” then rips into a patterned harsh chorus adding some teeth to the track. After the aggression of the chorus raises the heart rate, War On TV showcases their musicianship with a slippery build where each member interjects bursts of their own style and tone.
The vocal delivery all through War On TV is just as amorphous and manifold as the genre, and perhaps is largely the main contributor as to why its difficult to pin down exactly where to file this record. The singing ranges from airy crooning to a harsh bellow. While the vocals never quite reach into the brutal gutturals or screeching the pounding of the guitar work and double bass pedal might allow them to, the refined yells and hollering manage to add the needed edge to many passages, without sacrificing any of the clarity in the lyrics.
For me War On TV comes to its peak on the track “Mirror”. The track opens with a jangled and harsh guitar riff that immediately calls up images of 90’s emo preparing to take off. The emo riff is just an accent, as the guts of the song come as a frantic baseline driving a hip-hop beat as the riff and other eerie guitar noodles create atmosphere. On template for the record, the chorus crashes in with an aggressive riff piloted by a Reznor-esque vocal melody. After an unsettling guitar interlude and full-band build, the chorus blueprint shows itself again to close the song but with an ever-expanding intensity due to a fierce double kick entrance.
War On TV is a record defined by its versatility and performance. I can picture myself midway in an audience, arms folded, absorbing the way the songs are delivered to me and impressed by the audience members who have learned the intricacies of the transitions well enough to move to the scattered but bouncing mosh riffs. While definitely their own thing, the blending of styles creates a polarizing love-it-or-hate-it vibe for the record. I would recommend it to any of my friends looking for something to fill the voids left behind by Chris Cornell, Stone Temple Pilots, or System Of A Down.
War On TV’s new self-titled album was released on October 23rd.
Standout Tracks: Pornography, II, Mirror, Colouring
– Henry Navarre