I’ve been the biggest fan of Ohio’s War Curse since I first listened to their tight, little 2015 debut, Final Days. At that time, the band focused almost exclusively on Metallica/Slayer-core, but they delivered exciting renditions of that style that I still return to. Fast forward four years, and they dropped a surprising new release in Eradication. Avoiding the classic breakdown-heavy approach of today’s neo-thrash outfits, War Curse focused on the almighty riff to deliver a stacked Metallica-meets-Testament record with hints of Reign of Fury. Now we arrive at this year’s Confession—another new direction for the band that makes their previous releases merely a distant memory. Confession can only be described as a painting of the future, where War Curse follows no rules from the past and doesn’t give a fuck if you agree with how they thrash.
I’d be lying if War Curse’s new offering didn’t take me aback. It is so different from anything they’ve done before that it took me a few spins to grasp. Like many bands before them, Confession will either be a stroke of genius or their weakest album. It all depends on what you want from them and the genre. Right away, you can sense the direction of this new offering when “The Nothing (That Is Me)” opens with some gentle acoustic guitars that transition to a big, melodic Exodus riff. The chorus is a standout on the album, with Blaine Gordon’s soothing voice bringing to mind Joey Belladonna ala Anthrax’s For All Kings. The title track is similar in approach, using a calm, powerful chorus at its forefront and combining a bassy intro with some hard-hitting chugs on the back half.
As the album progresses, even more elements that made up Eradication disappear, moving closer to groove metal. For example, the opening riffs of “The Convoy” could have easily come from Metallica’s Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. However, Gordon combines his cleaner vocal style with his meaner shit to drive the point home in the song’s midsection. “Power of the Powerless” is another hard groover that breaks up the chug attack with a smooth, melodic chorus that’ll stick with you for weeks. Toss in some gentle, Metallica-esque clean guitars and solo work in the middle, and “Power of the Powerless” becomes one of the bigger tracks on the record.
But War Curse hasn’t lost its edge regarding some of the thrashier pieces on the album. Case in point, “Return to Dust” is a hustling Testament number complete with Chuck Billy-inspired cleans and gruffs. One of the heavier tracks, “Return to Dust,” has a face-punching chorus and a killer riff transition toward the end. But the monster of the disc is the closer. Like “Return to Dust,” “Illusion of Choice” is a fist-pumping piece that utilizes quick-acting Exodus riffage with chugtastic grooving. As it nears its conclusion, the chorus strengthens its grip before fading away with its damning message.
While I would never expect anyone to cover Grip Inc.’s “Rusty Nail,” its presence here solidifies War Curse’s new direction into controlled thrash/groove metal. Like their biggest influence, War Curse takes the path of Metallica, stripping itself of what’s expected and offering something new to the masses. Undoubtedly, Confession isn’t for everyone, and many will go crawling back to the band’s previous work. That said, it’s a brave move that might ultimately break the band free of the constraints they are clearly freeing themselves from to deliver something massive in the future. I say this only because Confession is not flawless. Unfortunately, “Miracle Broker” and “Sowing Division” do very little for me. The former, in particular, breaks the flow set by the stellar title track. So, if you’re expecting some Eletrocutioner from Confession, you ain’t gonna get it. That said, this new record is a brave step forward for War Curse and a true reinvention of their sound.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records | Blacklight Media Records
Websites: warcursemetal.bandcamp.com | warcurse.com | facebook.com/warcursemetal
Releases Worldwide: October 20th, 2023