The interesting tag of “gloomy death metal” was what initially intrigued me of War Will Reign. I envisaged atmospheric darkness or gothic strains mixed in with death metal which was definitely appealing. Well more fool me as it turns out this was not entirely accurate: instead, Prevail emerge from their dark, Dutch hole brandishing a more straight-forward, brutal form of vitriol. They claim to be simultaneously “old-school” but with “great melodic choruses.” Despite not exactly fitting my initial expectations, such a description promised that I couldn’t possibly dislike the album. A mix of visceral death metal and catchiness? It could have been great.
There’s very little here which will shock or surprise. It’s loud and fast with zero pretenses or strife towards anything beyond head-banging simplicity. Light touches of slam influence the sound in its sometimes pig-like vocals and Neanderthal’s approach, and blackened moments with tremolo-picking and blast beats round out the package. Songs largely transition between groovy riffs designed to hook the listener and unsubtle chugging to incite violent neck movements. Verse-chorus structures are punctuated with solos at or after the mid-point, attempting to highlight the final chorus. Such directness requires razor-sharp writing and musicianship to truly impress – there is nothing else unusual or interesting to their sound so all their efforts are hedged here.
And it’s also here, therefore, that Prevail utterly fail to make their mark. The songwriting is entirely competent but entirely forgettable, leading most tracks with solid enough riffs before devolving into mindless chug for many of the verses. Though some tracks are somewhat more melodic and some have noticeable solos, there’s an overwhelming lack of distinction throughout, with tracks assimilating each other into a mass of slamming, heavy but inconsequential death metal. The exceptions to this are momentary: the opening to “Parasite” has a definite groove though the rest is as average as ever, while “Tyrants” begins with splashy cymbals, blast beats, and a memorable riff. But these parts simply make the rest all the worse for the disappointing reversion to the standard fast or mid-paced filler.
By the third track it’s all too evident that Prevail have settled into an unexciting rhythm and by the eighth, you’ll be looking for excuses to stop listening. Indeed, this eighth track, “Voices,” is a neat indicator for them all. The opening will get your head nodding but it only endures for a few bars. Dull chugging then barrels in, interspersed with an occasional chorus – usually 3 or 4 – with which the listener is supposed to shout along. An unremarkable solo splits the penultimate and last chorus. The cool opening riff reappears in the choruses and at the end but it isn’t enough to overcome the mediocrity of the majority of the verses. Furthermore, while only breaching “The 45 Minute Rule”™ by 1 minute, I object to the album’s length, adhering to an infinitely more refined system: the faster and more brutal, the shorter it should be. 11 tracks which already lack divergence is simply unnecessary since most do nothing different anyway. It exacerbated my boredom while going through the motions of review.
War Will Reign makes for decent background music if you like to walk around hitting people but it really isn’t exciting to sit down with for its own pleasures. You’ve heard plenty of other bands like this; you’ve heard plenty better too.