Among a handful of artists leading the charge of the new generation of American metalcore, Floridian collective Wage War have long been ready for their time in the spotlight. As the most recent addition to the counter culture caravan of the Knotfest Roadshow, the band is positioned to broaden their reach nightly in what they have referred to as "the pinnacle of heavy metal touring".
While the task of taking on such coveted spot would certainly prove daunting for plenty of established bands, Wage War have long since become comfortable with the pressure that comes with the pursuit of their craft. The band's 2019 LP in the aptly titled, Pressure, confronted that reality in an effort that proved pivotal, both personally and professionally.
Harnessing the expectation that came with with being a fast-ascending band in the genre, Wage War's third full length introduced new elements spanning from electronic accents and heavy swaths of melody. It was an audacious move and one that allowed the band to chart their course towards their fullest creative potential. The pressure of expectation would ultimately be outweighed by the band's personal commitment to achieve their own fulfillment onstage and in the studio. It was a move that set a precedent for what was to come.
In what has become all too familiar of a storyline, Wage War found themselves in a predicament during the pandemic. The world would begin shuddering while the band was in the thick of their album cycle - their most ambitious to date. Faced with the reality that touring would hit an unprecedented stall, there was a sense that the momentum the band had worked hard to mount was in danger of deflating. As time passed however, it became clear that the climate of the world made all other concerns almost trivial - the world was literally on pause and that proved to be yet another pivotal moment for Wage War.
The band would find their retreat in their music. Investing the energy that would have been poured into touring in support of Pressure into the creative process writing and recording, the resulting studio sessions would become the full realization of Wage War's sound. Manic would prove to be the band's most personal effort to date, both thematically and stylistically. It offered a dynamic balance of heft, contrasted by shining moments of melody that propelled good songs to becoming memorable ones.
Adding to the significance of an album that saw the band make music on their own terms and at their own pace, is the kind of therapeutic value that is packaged with such a personal stake. These songs spoke to the spectrum of human emotions that became nearly universal over the course of the last couple of years. They confronted fear, loss, uncertainty and the kind of mental strain that was all too prevalent in a way that resonates as something real.
The band's vocalist Briton Bond offered some insight on what the return to the road has been like for the band and how Manic has functioned as a kind of artistic culmination for the band. He also shares how the band is incredibly eager to share the music with fans old and new and how being tapped for the Knotfest Roadshow is another prime opportunity to thrive under pressure.
The last few years for Wage War have been strange in terms of momentum. 2019 you guys we’re skyrocketing on your third album Pressure. Then, a complete stall, all to fire back up again hard in 2021. New album, massive tours with the likes of Beartooth - like nothing ever happened. What was the reality during the uncertain 18 months for Wage War?
Bond - It was a scary time, for sure. At no other point in time had the entertainment industry shut down like it did, and truthfully we put all our eggs in one basket. However, we did everything we could to keep that momentum going and to us that meant making a record. That record became ‘Manic.’
During that period of forced pause, how beneficial was that for the band and do you think that was an x-factor in the band hitting their creative stride with Manic?
Bond- 100%. It certainly was the case for us and I know for many other bands. There are a lot of records that are out or coming out that I believe are their best records.
Manic is the kind of album that really taps into a personal sense of emotion - these songs seem to bare a personal weight to them. Do you think the turbulence of the last couple of years helped you reach a place mentally that allowed you to articulate this range emotions in your music?
Bond - Absolutely. Manic is all about the different headspaces surrounding the last couple of years. We didn’t want to make it a "COVID" record but wanted to talk about what the last couple of years were like, mentally.
Given the thematic significance in the songs, plus the emotion that had to come with finally getting back onstage - how heavy was that experience? Did live music seem to mean a little more than it did in 2019?
Bond - I was personally the most nervous I’ve ever been on the first show back. I also think I cried.
Aside from the themes of the album, there are some particularly heavy arrangements on Manic - arguably some of the heaviest from the band to date. Was that heft a byproduct of the climate?
Bond - I think we went into the record knowing we were going to bring the heavy, but we wanted to do it in a unique way. And all of the time and frustration really fed into it.
Is Manic kind of the full realization of what the band started with Pressure? That album was polarizing but really showcased the band’s versatility and outside the box thinking - do you feel like Manic was a more refined version of that?
Bond - Definitely. We had a month to do Pressure and we’re all still very proud of it. We were able to take the best things from all three albums to make Manic.
The band was tapped to join on with the Knotfest Roadshow for the first leg of the North American tour. What was it like to get that phone call?
Bond - Getting that phone call didn’t even feel real. Every single one of us have been listening to Slipknot since we were young teenagers. It’s definitely a dream come true for a lot of us.
The maggots can be a very discerning fanbase. Did you groom your setlist to be a little more maggot-heavy for this kind of a tour?
Bond - I think at the end of the day we will always be a heavy band. We are playing a couple softer songs that have gone to radio but the meat and potatoes of the set will definitely be coming straight at you. So there’s a couple vibe checks and then we are right back to melting your face.
Wage War has been active for well over a decade and touring for a healthy majority of that. Where does a tour like the Knotfest Roadshow rank for you given all the miles you have put in throughout your professional career?
Bond - I’d have to say this is probably the pinnacle of heavy metal touring. Slipknot is one of the greatest bands to ever do it. So it’s an absolute honor to be out here on Knotfest. By the end of this tour it will definitely be one my favorites of all time.