Having lived near Seattle for most of my life, I’ve become very involved in the Seattle (and pretty much all of Washington) music scene; especially the metal part. Of course, Washington has its gems like Nevermore, Wolves in the Throne Room, Queensryche, Inquisition, and Demon Hunter as well as its underground gems like Blood and Thunder, Six Days of Darkness, Black Breath, and one of its most recent major uprisings: I Declare War. I never really bothered to listen to these guys until I heard that they were from downtown Seattle. After playing this for the third time in a row, I could at least somewhat understand why these guys rose from the underground so quickly, but when speaking in terms of the entire deathcore genre, these guys don’t really have anything special about them.
Quite a few people have been saying that Malevolence has been one of the leading albums in the newer “waves” of deathcore (hopefully that doesn’t mean “Emmure-core”). When I was hearing people say this, I was really hoping that they had too much vodka before saying that. As far as deathcore standards go, the song structure is devastatingly simple and boring. But the main contributor to the boring factor isn’t the song structure; I’ll talk about that bigger factor later. The drumming is very simple and never does anything. The only things that I can hear from the drummer are the annoying sound of the double kicks, the bass booms at the beginning of some of the breakdowns, and the cymbals in the background. If I want to hear the snare, I have to listen closely. The drummer doesn’t seem to have any trouble at all staying in time, but other than that, he shows no creativity or skill what so ever.
The vocalist reminds me a lot of Adam Warren of Oceano (my favorite deathcore band). I love this really strained growl sound, but the difference between Warren and this guy is that Warren does more than just that cool growl. He screams, he yells, and he even inhales every now and then. This guy just does the cool growl in monotone and occasionally inhales in a way where you virtually can’t hear him unless you block the rest of the music out. The guitars aren’t super overpowering, but they do cover up the majority of the overall sound. The distortion that they have is your average really gritty metalcore distortion that was designed for brutality.
A lot of the elements in the music (including the overall sound) can be found in several older records by some of deathcore’s earlier artists like Suicide Silence, As Blood Runs Black, and Impending Doom. Besides the huge resemblance of Oceano that I Declare War has, most of the simplicity tends to date back to As Blood Runs Black’s debut album, Allegiance. I’m not saying that I know for sure that these bands are actual influences on I Declare War’s sound, but I can say with great confidence that I can hear a lot of elements that were pioneered by As Blood Runs Black and Oceano. The Oceano side is the slower, really thick and sludgy sound and the simplicity is more of the early As Blood Runs Black sound.
The first thing that I think of whenever I see or hear this album is monotone. When you play the first song after the intro, New Age Holocaust, you hear a really thick and dark brutality from the veins of Oceano. But after the first breakdown, the dynamics and overall mood of the music never changes. This sound quickly dulls out by the third or fourth track, and has me asleep by the eighth or ninth track. The sound is completely monotonous for the duration of the album with no changes at all in vocal pitch, volume, dynamics or structure. Some deathcore bands (like All Shall Perish) like to have a complex song structure during the really intense part, and then simplify the structure in order to enhance any mellowness or decline in brutality and intensity.
Some deathcore bands (like Suicide Silence, Carnifex, and Oceano) keep a generally simple song structure (some being simpler than others) and tighten up the intensity to its maximum potential to then release it in an explosive drop in tempo known as a breakdown. I Declare War is one of those bands, but the problem that they have is that the tension never builds OR declines; IT’S ALL MONOTONE, the mood or tension of the music barely changes at all! Once you realize that, it’s already too late because you’ll already be bored to death.
Despite what I’ve heard, I can’t see how I Declare War could be influential in any way. Although their overall sound and song structure is solid, their tone and intensity generally remains unchanging for the duration of the record. I would rate this album 10/20 for not being a bad album, but nothing that I would say good things about either. I would only “recommend” this to diehard deathcore fans.