Tis the season of friends and family gathering together and spreading holiday cheer. And what better way to spread that cheer than to have a venue full of friends, family and fans of local metal hero’s Wage War. The band just released their new album Manic on October 1st to high acclaim. Since then Wage War have had few live appearances to promote the new record but did manage to secure spots on some of the biggest festival stages in the country as part of multiple Danny Wimmer Presents shows. But if you were to ask the band, I’d think headlining an intimate show in front of the hometown crowd might outdo the larger crowds those shows provided. Tonight at House of Blues in Orlando Wage War incorporated help from local metalcore talent Scatter Shot and of course the mighty Miss May I to deliver a special show for their fans just in time for Christmas.
Just as their hip hop intro concludes, the room starts to swell up with cheers as the fans start to see the band walking through the darkness. Soon the stage is saturated in red lighting as the work MANIC glows under the catwalk and drum riser. Then Singer Briton Bond emerges and greets the crowd with “Orlando, are you ready to have some fun?”. And then with little warning Wage War explodes into the opening track of Manic with Relapse as lights flicker and ignite all around the stage while the album’s cover rotates and trembles along the LED display. There was no denying how the energy erupted in the room as the song’s anarchy-inducing opening incited the entire crowd to jump in the air and dispatch a fleet of crowd surfers over their heads.
Wage War really came out swinging with hard hitting songs like Who I Am, Prison and the brutally uplifting Low. The band would throw a curveball out and reach back to 2017’s Deadweight to play the deep cut track Indestructible on stage for the first time. To be honest I was surprised to learn that this song had never made it into a setlist before. Briton’s raw and powerful roar set the tone as the brutal guitar work sets up the moving melodies of Cody’s chorus lines. Regardless if the song had never been played live before, it certainly held its own in this setlist with its level of fierce breakdowns and solid riffs. And it had no problem getting the crowd moving as the mosh pits took over the floor.
Following the softer side of Gravity, Wage War bounced back with one of the my favorite tracks of a Manic with Teeth. The song’s hard hitting rhythm of Drummer Stephen Kluesener hits you in the chest like a sledgehammer as you’re audibly pummeled by Cody and Blake’s crushing guitars. Without skipping a beat, the band transitioned into another new track with Godspeed. As Briton gets the fans fired up, members of the crew get into position around the inner VIP area around the 2nd floor with giant trash bags. At first glance I just thought they might be giving stuff away to fans.
But just as the band tees off into the song the crew members dump those bags over the railing showering the unsuspecting fans below with black and red beach balls. The area in front of the stage looked like the inside of a lotto ball machine as they were smacked high into the air until the majority of them found a home on stage.
After a 4 block of new tracks which concluded with the title track Manic and the album’s first single High Horse, Briton touches on a serious topic with the crowd. “The Holidays are coming and sometimes it can be the hardest time for people suffering from anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide”. You have to give him a lot of credit. Not only for taking the time to address such a serious problem that affects so many.
But for also touching on his own struggles in the past and how he was able to overcome them. He then dedicates Youngblood to a dear friend of the band who passed away right before the band had started to tour in January of 2014. The lyrics are even more powerful than the song’s chugging breakdowns which prompted the fans to let their voices be heard as they thunderously chant the words back to the stage.
Wage War would then take it back to the first album and the song that started it all with Alive. As the opening riff acts like a lit fuse, the crowd’s cheers erupt until Briton screams “GET UP”. On that command the entire room, upstairs and across the floor, exploded into the air and bounced to the rhythm of that devastating guitar riff. The circle pits open up instantly through the crowd and their intensity only grows as the song carries on.
The band wasn’t afraid to switch gears from the crushing bulk of the setlist to certainly one of the most melodic in their catalog with Me Against Myself. This would give Cody Quistad a great opportunity to show off his soaring vocal range while Briton and Seth belt out those “Alone” gang vocals as the crowd enthusiastically chant them back.
Afterwards, the very familiar sounds of crickets echo through the darkness of the room. Briton asks the fans “Who is from right here in Florida?”. And when the house lights come on they reveal a sea stretched out arms and screams of pride. His response of “Well if you’re not. Welcome to the swamp baby!” ignites an enthusiastically loud ovation from the fans just as Wage War unleashes Death Roll.
The minefield of pinch harmonics clear the way for the chaos that would fuel some of the biggest circle pits of the night. But when the song’s punishing breakdown detonates with spewing towers of compressed air, it sends the masses into mayhem. And just like that, we arrived at the last song in the set with Circle the Drain. While the band rings out that last note and Briton gives his thanks to the fans, the chants for “One more song” rival the loud applause.
Those chants carry on well after Wage War departs. As the room is full of fans that refuse to accept that the show is over, they are rewarded by the familiar sounds of Johnny Cash. The chants are replaced with a thunderous ovation as the band’s logo glows from the stage. When the band returns the voice of Johnny Cash himself rings through the speakers, amplifying the crowd’s cheers. Cody would kick things off as the lights behind him glow like stars in the sky. But the subtle vocal and astrology display wouldn’t last long before that booming low-end drops on the room as his angelic melody transforms into a powerful scream.
This would set up the final song of the night perfectly. Before the song can start, Briton lets the fans know “We got enough gas left in the tank for one last one. You know what’s coming”. And if there was anyone in attendance that didn’t, they found out very quickly as Cody started to play the opening riff of the band’s juggernaut hit Stitch. When the song drops it immediately catapults the crowd into insanity as the fans make sure whatever they have left in the tank is spent.
The energy was at its highest as Wage War blasted out one of, if not, their most punishing track and to no surprise, was the song everyone in the building was looking forward to most. As the bedlam comes to an end, Wage War would close out the set by detonating columns of compressed air and confetti high above the passionate crowd and concluded this amazing show.
When you think of states that have a rich history of metal, Florida might not be one that gets the attention it deserves. But Wage War have certainly taken the torch and have established themselves as one of the best of the modern era of metal. With awsesome live shows like this and solid records like Manic, Wage War will continue to make their mark as one of the best bands to not only come out Florida. But one of the best live bands in the country. Luckily fans won’t have to wait long to see the band on the road. Wage War heads back out in January with Falling in Reverse on the Live From The Unknown: The Tour and will join I Prevail for their Euopean tour in February. For tour dates, merch and to get your copy of Manic get to the bands website wagewarband.com.