Originally written by Erik Thomas
In 1998, I dismissed AOW’s “For Those who where Crucified”, as bland hardcore, and to be honest with you, I was mired in Nile worship and had my death metal blinders on.
Well, 5 years later, my affinity for hardcore has grown, as has the genre, so now I’m able to give more balanced feedback on a fine if expected album. “Condemned to Suffer” has been rightfully termed Slayer meets hardcore, and the resultant crossover aftermath that blends hardcore social commentary and angst with metal’s structures is a furious assault that’s as lethal as a New York back alley.
With deep religious themes relating to Armageddon, salvation and heavenly conflict, you’d be forgiven for thinking AOW are a Christian band, but simply their lyrics are as vehement and message laden as any of the “tough guy, keep it in the family” style bands, and infinitely more clever. Musically, the superb production gives the guitars a caustic death metal tone that few hardcore acts could pull off, but the drums are the harbinger of doom for this album, as they pummel remorselessly, and on decent speakers will liquefy your tympanic membrane.
As far as the actual songs, there’s no new territory being covered here, the crossover style that Hatebreed, Figure Four and Blood For Blood cover with equal competence. There’s no real breakthrough in style, but as is with the genre, it’s generally rated in its conviction, compassion and of course breakdowns. Whereas as many hardcore bands either thrive on the breakdown with some speedy power chords thrown in to break them up or vice versa, AOW are perfectly competent at both.
The title track displays AOW’s deft ability to craft thrashy pounding riffs, peaking with an all out neck-snapping assault. There’s also some rare surprises as far as an acoustic intro (“Bleeding the Weak”), and some longer, more in depth songs that offer an unexpected change from the normal 3 –minute fervent bursts. The five minute “Destined to Burn” lingers for its first two minutes in an almost Crowbar like dirge, and with a crawling Sabbathian interlude featuring death metal backing vocals, AOW break from the hardcore norm enough to make them stand out. The same can be said for album closer “Gone Forever”, with its lurching opening riff before uncorking some good ol’ NYHC crunch complete with cliched but always welcome gang vocals. Don’t get me wrong though, this is no album for the weak kneed.
The slower songs are still vastly out numbered by short, sharp bruisers like “Straight Towards Extinction”, “Heavens Coming Down” and “Hypocrites of the Revolution” that screech and careen into sonic auto wrecks laced with typical NYHC machismo, but it’s done with a distinct sense of brooding pace that adds to the album’s apocalyptic theme.
All Out War have done what bands are supposed to do with their second album, especially after a 6 year hiatus; improved without drastically altering their sound, at the same time sticking to their roots while injecting just enough freshness to avoid the genre wide water treading (Nora, Hatebreed). That being said this is still a hardcore album at its core and comes with all the trappings of a hardcore album-no solos, antagonistic, shouted vocals and alot of fun but expected breakdowns. But it’s still the perfect album to work out to, and a welcome return.