Beartooth – The Below Tour Wage War, Dragged Under
We define ourselves between extremes. Life’s lowest lows and highest highs ultimately show us how much we can take. Wage War have forged an ironclad hybrid of battering ram grooves, gnashing guitars, and melodic hooks in the heat of those extremes. Following the most trying year in recent memory, the Florida quintet—Briton Bond [lead vocals], Cody Quistad [rhythm guitar, clean vocals], Seth Blake [lead guitar], Chris Gaylord [bass], and Stephen Kluesener [drums]—only strengthened their creative bond on their fourth full-length offering, Manic [Fearless Records]. Musically, the band struck a seamless balance between bludgeoning grooves, soaring melodies, electronic fits, and battering ram riffs, straining their past, present, and future into one cohesive statement. Thematically, they confronted everything from personal struggles to trolls and two-faced friends.
After amassing nearly 300 million streams and receiving widespread acclaim from Billboard, Loudwire, Alternative Press, and more, the group delivered eleven anthems meant to connect through turbulence.
“Manic encompasses everything we’ve gone through as musicians in the last year-and-a-half,” exclaims Stephen. “The whole industry halted, and we technically lost our jobs. Our scene was among the first to leave and the last to come back. The album captures the whole period. That’s how I’d describe Manic.”
“It’s the feeling of being apart,” agrees Chris. “You’re in your own head, forced to be home, and unable to talk to others face-to-face. It puts you in a different headspace.”
“Mania is a wild emotion,” observes Cody. “The last year was all severe highs and lows. We had some victories, but we’ve also had so many low points. We’ve built this thing for the last ten years and put all of our chips into it. We’ve missed birthdays and funerals, but we’ve done some extraordinary things. Last year, we found ourselves wondering if it would ever come back. That’s really what the album is about.”
Manic represents the apex of an intense creative journey. They built a diehard audience with Blueprints  and Deadweight  and through incessant touring. 2019’s Pressure exploded right out of the gate. “Low” piled on 24.9 million Spotify streams with “Who I Am” at 10.7 million Spotify streams and “Me Against Myself” at 8.4 million Spotify streams. Beyond bringing their total stream tally past a-quarter-of-a-billion, it landed on Loudwire’s “50 Best Metal Albums of 2019,” while New Noise Magazine graded it “4-out-of-5 stars” and Alternative Press raved, “Wage War are unapologetically changing the game on all fronts on ‘Pressure’.”
As the Global Pandemic raged, the guys hid out in a cabin in the Northern Georgia woods to write.
“Pressure was great for us,” Cody goes on. “We took a lot of risks, which is important. So, we came into Manic, knowing what it takes to make a record that will please older fans, yet continue the journey and growth for us. We definitely pushed some limits. We’d never done this before, but we brought all our equipment to a cabin and wrote songs together. It was a special thing, because we hadn’t seen one another in so long. It was really inspiring, helpful, and fruitful to be in a room together.”
Following those sessions, they recorded with longtime collaborators Drew Fulk [Lil Peep, Motionless In White] and Andrew Wade [A Day To Remember]. Igniting this chapter, Wage War introduced Manic with the first single “High Horse.” A pummeling rhythm charges forward as guitars crunch and crack beneath relentless verses before an uncompromising chorus, “You want to see a war? I’m here to settle scores.” It’s an open invitation to the pit.
“When people online take a five-second window to degrade a song and call it trash, that’s really toxic,” observes Cody. “We’re living in a world where everyone wants to have a hot take. The song is a realization it doesn’t matter what anybody else says. We make the music we do, because we love it. We’re eternally grateful for anyone who hops on the train. We’re putting our foot down and saying we’re going to do our thing whether you like it or not. The lyrics are different for us.”
On the other end of the spectrum, “Circle The Drain” snakes around a sweeping and soaring refrain, “Will we find closure or circle the drain?” The chorus offsets the intensity of the hard-hitting drums.
“We saw a lot of issues come up last year socially with cancel culture and the Pandemic,” he goes on. “The song urges everybody to just stop, take a look around, and realize the pain that happens. We have to learn and grow with each other. It’s a humanistic approach to a rock song.”
On “Teeth,” glitchy production swells give way to incisive riffing punctuated by violent whispering, eerie harmonics, and another irresistible hook about “a friend who leeches from you, leaves, and never comes back.” The title track “Manic” borders on trap production with hollow percussive hits and schizophrenic delivery before a seesawing scream. It nods to the culture of rap beat-craft with its icy electronic darkness.
“We tried to integrate a dark hip-hop vibe,” Cody goes on. “It’s my favorite Wage War song ever. It really pushes boundaries for us. Sonically and lyrically, it lends itself to a manic headspace, summing up the album.”
A sinewy riff wraps around a robotic sample as “Godspeed” rushes towards one of the biggest hooks on the record as it waves goodbye to social deadweight, “And now you’re dead to me.” Once again, they push the envelope creatively.
“It’s a banger,” grins Stephen. “It’s classic Wage War with the breakdown and the melody. It spoke to the whirlwind we’ve gone through recently.”
In the end, Wage War emerged from everything stronger than ever.
“Whether you’ve been listening to us since the beginning or you just discovered us, I hope you’re satisfied by this,” Chris leaves off. “It’s easy to feel alone. We want to bring you on the journey with us, and we hope you stay on the ride.”
“I think this is our best record, and I hope people are able to see, hear, and feel how much we put into it,” concludes Cody. “This record sounds exactly like we’ve always wanted the band to sound like. It’s a defining moment for us.”