EP Review: wars – As Within // So Without

Our second new EP of ‘exciting release review day’ is the excellent second EP from Rugby rockers wars As Within // So Without, their first longer form release since debut album around three years ago. And it’s been well worth the wait.

The EP represents a stepping stone towards the evolution of the wars sound, with a couple of tracks reflecting a change in sound and approach. Chatting to us ahead of the band’s gig supporting SHVPES in Bournemouth at the end of last year, bassist Rich Bennett explained: “You have to realise things are moving on and you do have to keep up with what other people are doing because inevitably if you don’t then you’ll fall behind. We’re always trying to reach new fans so we are changing the style in that sense, without trying to imitate anybody.”

The EP opens up with latest single Scorn And Fidelity, which was released earlier this week and offers an immediate insight into what wars are aiming for stylistically.

It’s a hugely impressive start to the EP. Opening up with flickering synth noises, a big wall of guitars soon kick in over bigger synth sounds, then a diving guitar riff supports frontman Rob Vicars’ big screamed vocals. The melodic vocals of Sam Barnard take over in a chorus of “I cannot change the voice inside my brain, The things I say, Can I live this way, Under a darkened cloud of my mistakes” as the big synth sounds return. Rob’s screamed vocals return with the delicious line “We are buried, beneath ourselves, drawing the maps we know of hell My derelict soul, it’s got so old; waging wars to find the road.”

Then a second round of the chorus digresses into extended melodic vocals “‘Cos I know the answer is inside of me, And I know that this nightmare is the key, Can I just wake up, I can’t work out why we expect so much,” then a blast of screamed vocals. That’s followed by big booming chords supported by cool stabbing synth sounds that continue alongside huge screams from Rob. The pace drops right down, then builds into a final chorus that gives way to the big chords, stabbing synth and screamed vocals to bring it to a heavy ending.

There’s a hell of a lot going on here, with lots of contrasting sections and sounds merging seamlessly into one another. On the track, Rich tells us: “Scorn is a step above from what we’ve done before. The melodies and the way the song is put together, and the production is much better – I feel it’s just a step up.” Check it out in the video below:

And, as Rob explains, the song is indicative of wars’ intriguing songwriting influences, given it’s based on a quote from French philosopher Albert Camus’ work Myth of Sisyphus. “It’s all about this perpetual effort to repeat the same thing over and over again,” Rob says. “There’s a lot going on but ultimately the thing that goes into all these songs is the idea that all we see and the hell that we see inside of us is reflected out into the world around us.”

“We’re getting on, so we’re writing from life experience at this point. There’s a real opportunity in music to do something and there’s so much material out there, that every time we come to write something new i’’s a chance to go out there and learn something, and then you gain all these new perspectives, which you mix with your own and then you write something on the back of it. So there’s a lot of thought that goes into it and that’s the fun of doing it and having everything linked together in one way – like with the album.”

That’s followed by Little Death, which again portrays wars’ proficiency at merging brutal screamed vocals and huge riffs with moments of superb melody. It kicks off with building background guitar that kicks into life with an explosion of guitar chords and the same high-pitched notes. A huge scream from Rob launches us into a lively opening verse with booming guitars and heavy cymbals smashing away in the background. The instrumentals drop down as the screamed vocals continue, then atmospheric guitars kick in, before the instruments drop out.

Sam Barnard’s clean vocals take over “Is this poison in my blood, Whispering that I’m no good, And the whispers beg to bleed, They spill out into screams.” Light drums and flickers of guitar kick in as the clean vocals continue, then a scream of “Keep me up for just a moment” is the cue for a big wall of guitars under Sam’s clean chorus vocals “Little death, little death, This is a waste of breath, Is there anything left of us, Little steps, little steps, Got some mess in my head, Is there anything left of us?”

Huge darting low-tuned guitars follow in support of more screamed vocals then Sam and Rob team up for an awesome section of clean and screamed vocals, supported by Lee Tysall’s pounding bass drum and more big guitars. There’s a brief pause for breath, which gives way to another blast of guitar chords under the clean chorus vocals. Then the high-pitched guitars return alongside the jumpy low-tuned guitars and cymbals to bring the track to a heavy ending. Check it out in the video below:

Next up is On Being More, which opens up with a light bouncy riff and big booming drums then a huge scream from Rob leads into big guitar chords under high-pitched guitars and screamed vocals. The pace drops down into light clean vocals, before bursting back into the screamed vocals that continue over a more intense diving guitar riff, answered by clean vocals and more melodic guitars.

The EP closes out with the excellent In A Mirror, Dimly, which kicks off with a delicious riff and a cheeky little cowbell smashing away in the background. It dives into a chunky riff that continues under Rob’s trademark screamed vocals, with high-pitched guitars coming in to add depth.

That drops into a big singalong chorus of “We stare into mirrors, We search for forgiveness, Places full of dread, How did these get in my head, We stare into mirrors” with jaunty guitars looping their way through underneath. The second verse dives into a reprieve of the opening diving riff under a final blast of screamed vocals “I look into the mirror, And ask of me, Why must I hate the self I see, I look into the mirror, And see a sea of doubt, And know that I’m seeing the insides out” that bring an end to a brilliant EP. Check it out in the video below:

As with their debut album, the EP draws on the inner ‘wars’ and demons we all have within ourselves. As Rob tells us: “The whole concept is about looking within yourself and seeing all these different things, and a lot of us when we look inside ourselves we don’t see great things. And when we reflect we see the worst situation we possibly can and when you see that every time it ends up reflecting into the world outside, and your perspective gets skewed in a negative way almost.

“But there’s kind of a positive spin on it that if you can change what you’re seeing when you look inside yourself then you will change what happens in the world around you.

“The EP’s about a few of those experiences that I’ve definitely had. Being unable to change that thing inside of you where you keep seeing the worst possible scenario, the worst thing that can happen, and you can’t really let go of that – then that reflects out into the world around you and makes everything seem pretty tricky.”

This is yet another impressive effort from wars, which retains the band’s signature ability to fuse seriously heavy metal with more melodic choruses while giving us a peek of what’s to come. As Rob tells us: “I’m super proud of this EP, like on In A Mirror, Dimly, the way that picks up on a couple of things and the places we’re going with music. It’s one of those things where you start the writing process and you don’t know what’s going to happen, but this EP has come together in a really nice way.”

There’s plenty more to come from wars, with shows alongside Behind Blue Eyes in Leamington, Huddersfield and Manchester kicking off on Friday (25 January), then a tour with I Cried Wolf – who we’ll be writing about on the site very soon – and Area 11 next month. See the image below and here for more info. And expect a new album too, with it slated for release potentially before the end of 2019.

As Within // So Without is out on Friday (25 January) through A Wolf At Your Door Records and will be available on Spotify and all other digital platforms. You can follow wars on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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