Review by Shannon Shumaker
A War Against You hits like a punch to the gut right from the beginning and is sure to keep you in a vice grip for all fourteen tracks, making it a remarkable comeback release for Ignite. Their first record in over a decade, Ignite come back strong with A War Against You. This isn’t a meek or boring comeback from these punk legends - it’s loud and in your face, explosive and aggressive, not that you’d ever expect anything less from Ignite.
It all starts with a bang with opening track, “Begin Again.” Opening in a very unconventional way, with crisp and stunning a cappella vocal harmonies, “Begin Again” catches your attention right away, and when the full band comes in, it’s apparent that Ignite put their heart and soul into this release. The passionate and energetic vocals definitely carry the opening track, but that’s not to say that the instrumentals are lacking. Following the cold open, the song loses absolutely no momentum when the full band comes in, and throughout the rest of the song, the guitar work is simple yet smart, as is the drumming. All of the instruments serve to compliment the vocals, making them really shine though. But, in true Ignite fashion, A War Against You is certainly not one dimensional - that much is obvious within just the first two songs. Where “Begin Again” is carried primarily by vocals, “Nothing Can Stop Me” kicks off with a strong lead guitar hook and a powerful bass tone that serves as a strong backbone. Though the vocal work in “Nothing Can Stop Me” is definitely a high point as well, Ignite really deliver musically on this track without going completely overboard. The urgent guitar work coupled with the pounding bass and drums make for a headbang-worthy track.
And then, “This Is A War” comes in with that aggressive, gritty punk spirit that is a little lacking in the first two songs, which are considerably more melodic and catchy. Keeping with the ever-changing sound on A War Against You, “This Is A War” is spearheaded by fast paced and aggressive drumming, wild bass lines and punchy guitar work. This track makes you want to get up and move, start a circle pit or punch someone in the face. I mean, it’s called, “This Is A War,” after all. Continuing forward is “Oh No Not Again,” which really showcases the strong bass work on A War Against You, all while remaining well balanced with soaring vocal runs on top of the instrumentals. The gang vocals toward the end of the track are also a high point, as is the wild guitar work that follows. While “Oh No Not Again” is nowhere near as fast paced as “This Is A War,” it still has some great energy. Contrasting well with “Oh No Not Again” and “This Is A War” is the following song, “Alive,” which begins with a strong bass line before progressing into a very positive, catchy and melodic track, all topped off with gang vocals, strong harmonies and stellar guitar work. “Alive” has a little bit of everything that makes A War Against You strong - the beautiful melodic vocals, powerful instrumentals and a bit of punk aggression that gives Ignite life.
“You Saved Me” also has that same positive feeling and energy as “Alive,” but isn’t a ballad by any means, which is a nice change. Meaningful lyrics still shine through some of the strongest drumming on the record. There is a moment where the music cuts out in this track, leaving us with just the vocals, and the result is absolutely incredible. Following “You Saved Me,” that same aggression and energy that opens the album keeps it moving forward. Though it does tend to feel like there is some filler in the middle of the album, when you really get down to it and pay special attention to songs like “Rise Up” and “Where I’m From,” they aren’t empty or meaningless. The first line of “Rise Up,” for instance - “The purpose of life is not the path of most resistance/The struggles inside will bring you to your knees” - is one of the strongest lyrics on the entire album, even if it starts out quite slower than many of the songs before it.
“You Lie” is the powerful track that brings in the second half of A War Against You, starting off with some very interesting and unique guitar work and stellar drumming. Not only does “You Lie” stand out from the songs before it because of its fast pace and aggressive drumming, but it also sounds very different from quite a few of the melodic tracks that tend to dominate the album. This song is another fast paced and aggressive track, in the instrumentals, vocals and even the lyrics. “You Lie” is a condensed version of the grit that really carries much of A War Against You forward, which makes it a perfect song to come right before the ending. Contrasting well with “You Lie” is the following track, “Descend.” Where “You Lie” is angry, frustrated and aggressive, “Descend” holds a message of positivity and hope and is much more melodic, proving Ignite’s versatility once more before the album comes to an end. And A War Against You is brought to that explosive and anthemic ending by “Work,” which stands out from the rest because, much like “Begin Again,” it sounds completely different from the rest of the album. The simple guitar and vocals are not something that can be found on any other song on the record, but surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, after thirteen incredible tracks) this song is just as hard-hitting as every other song on A War Against You, even though it isn’t as wild or aggressive.
Ignite have completely mastered this comeback release. While the sounds on A War Against You vary quite a bit throughout fourteen songs, the overall theme and mood throughout the album is solid and confident. Not only does it flow incredibly well, but the messages, stories and the time and love that went into crafting each and every one of these songs are sure to resonate with listeners, both new and old. For older fans of Ignite, A War Against You is a triumphant comeback, and for any new listeners, this is the perfect release to introduce them to the band before they inevitably go through the rest of their discography. What a perfect way to start 2016.
Listen to "Begin Again," "This Is A War" or "You Lie"
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