Wage War has entered new territory. Compared with its heavier, second album, 2017’s Deadweight, and 2015 debut Blueprints, its third effort, Pressure (out today on Fearless Records), is a soulful departure that’s packed with melodies and contains a touch more levity than previous releases.
The album also is Wage War’s experiment in pushing its own boundaries, which is particularly evident in its latest single, “Grave.” Although it’s still heavy, the impassioned track delves deep into the core of relationships and closure — and even the metalcore group’s own rebirth since forming in 2010.
“It’s a song where we decided to step out of our normal boundaries,” guitarist-vocalist Cody Quistad tells Billboard about “Grave.” “We’re a notoriously heavy band, but we made a song that still harnesses the heavier elements, yet has this chanty chorus — and musically it’s got more electronic elements to it as well. We really just tried to make something different, and in the end of the recording process, we listened back to the songs and felt really good about that one, so we decided to give it some special attention.”
Lyrically, “Grave” addresses the toxicity that tends to seep in and out of one’s life, with the lyrics “Burn the pages, but you can’t erase it” and a chorus of “You will never change … You’ll take it to your grave.” Directed by Drew Russ — who helmed Wage War’s 2015 Blueprints video “Alive,” as well as clips by Pierce the Veil, Beartooth and A Day to Remember — the reel captures caterpillars creeping, crawling and transforming into moths. The visuals tie into the track’s message and perhaps act as a metaphor about Wage War’s own rebirth through Pressure.
“Obviously it’s an extreme, but it’s about being caught up in a toxic cycle with people, and eventually, you just have to let them out of your life,” says Quistad. “That’s kind of what the song is about, that rest-in-peace of that friendship, relationship or whatever that toxic thing is.” He adds, “It’s just part of growing up. Your friends are fewer, but they’re better.”
Billboard is premiering the video for “Grave” today. Watch it below:
It’s the “big track” on Pressure, he says, but the entire album was an even larger feat for the Ocala, Fla., natives as they shift into nearly a decade together. “I think our first two records are pretty close together sonically,” he observes. “We evolved a little but not a lot. Now was the time to step up to the plate and make something special and make something fresh and different for us.”
Singer Briton Bond, who typically takes on more of the harsher vocals, flexed his vocals with more melodious tones throughout Pressure. “We’ve always had a strong feeling for melody,” says Quistad. “We like being an aggressive band, but we wanted to make songs that someone who normally wouldn’t listen to us, would. That is part of the goal — almost like a gateway band to something else.”
Wage War also moved from its home base of Florida, where it recorded its first two albums, to Los Angeles for Pressure. The city always has been a special place for the band, and recording there was on its communal bucket list. “To be in the town where everything is really inspiring and everyone there is trying to do something, it’s a great vibe,” Quistad says. “You feel the energy. So that definitely pushed us.”
The band also lived together during the process, making Pressure more of a collaborative effort — particularly when it came to songwriting. Everyone was involved, and they also drew in writer Andrew Goldstein (Five Seconds of Summer, Demi Lovato, blackbear). In another first, the group worked with producer Drew Fulk (Bullet for My Valentine, I Prevail, Ice Nine Kills) this time around. “We just worked with a couple of different people who helped us grow as a band — someone with an outside perspective and not what we would normally do,” says Quistad.
It’s all part of how, nearly 10 years later, Wage War is in a different place and, in essence, breaking out from its own shell. “It’s a special thing,” says Quistad. “We really went in [with Pressure] and decided to make something that was special for us, and I think we achieved that.”
Wage War kicks off its North American tour on Sept. 6 in Buffalo, N.Y. For tour dates, go here.