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War of Ages
n this world, being a hardcore punk or metal musician is hard enough; being a Christian one is practically volunteering for outcast status. However, War of Ages has gladly enlisted for the task. Over two albums, the Pennsylvania band has put forth metallic hardcore that draws equally from In Flames and Earth Crisis. Lyrically, the band is up-front about its faith, emphasizing a positive message even while dropping crushing breakdowns and fleet-fingered solos.
This year's Pride of the Wicked is a huge step up for the band. With flawless performances and perfect production, the album will induce bouts of air guitar in even the most hardened atheist. Stylus asked singer Leroy Hamp if it's OK for Christians to mosh.
What is the War of Ages?
It's the war within yourself. We wanted to go with something that you could visualize. On this new CD, we talk about pride of the wicked, the pride within your heart, the battle with yourself.
"Pride of the Wicked" has very militant cover artwork. What's all that about?
[It's about] a prideful man fighting against wicked people, so basically he's fighting himself, thinking that he's holier than thou or better than the rest. He's got a golden sword, just thinking he's the best. So he's [really] fighting his own people.
Are you a Christian band?
Definitely. We're here to show love, and God is love. Call it a Christian band, call it you what you want, you can put a label to it if you want to because that seems to be what everybody likes to do, put a label on something. If you want to call us a Christian band, you can—we love God with all our hearts.
Do you see any tension between your message and your medium, hardcore punk and metal?
Definitely. We're playing for a field that has their opinions, and we're trying to give a positive message. Of course, not everybody's going to agree with that. You're going to get that with anything. You're going to cross that with any kind of band you start. Not everyone's going to like you, not everyone's going to agree with what you're trying to put across. When people hear of a Christian band, they're automatically turned off by it. We knew that's going to happen, but we still do what we do, because that's what we believe in.
As a vocalist, you're doing screams and growls. When people hear noises like that from a guy, they think he's pissed off. When you make those noises, what's going through you?
The lyrics that we write, I'm very passionate about, and the music that we play, the guys are all passionate about it. We put it across in a way that we feel we can best put it across. We've grown up with this kind of music, and we love playing it. When I'm screaming, I feel like I'm putting it across to kids in the way I would like to hear it. I don't feel any aggression or anything like that. It's just more of a positive feel. Some kid walked up to me the other day and said, "I don't know what it is, but every time I dance to you guys, I have this huge smile, and I can't get it off my face." I was, like, "We make you mosh with a smile."
You've started something called the Positively Positive Crew. What's that about?
PPC—actually, it started off as a joke, because of all these different crews that were showing up. We were, like, "You know what? We're going to start this thing called the Positively Positive Crew." We put it on MySpace as "PPC," and kids just took off with it. It's fun, it sounds good, and kids latched on to it. We're kind of shocked [by] how it took off.
So if I were a kid on MySpace and I put "PPC" next to my name, what would that mean?
It'd just mean that you're willing to live your life in a positive way. No fights, no nothing, just PPC to the max.
Do you ever get flak from Christians for the kind of music you play?
Oh, absolutely. We've been approached by people [as to] how we bring across our message, that they don't agree with it, stuff like that. You're going to get that with anything. Not everybody's going to agree with the way that you do your music and the way that you live your life. The awesome thing about it is that God knows your heart. You put the music across in the way that you feel you're being led to [do] it.
Your first album began with a quote from [Christian author] Brennan Manning: "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips but deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." Why did you make this the intro?
We wanted to put a shock to the Christian world. One of the biggest causes of atheism is Christians not leading life the way that they should. They're very judgmental. It's exactly what you just asked me—Christians walk up to you [and say] "You shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that." That's not your call. It's not personal to you. Extremists are the cause of the downfall of a lot of things. Even Christians—there are extremists out there that make what we do even harder. Not necessarily everyone's an extremist. You can definitely pick out an extremist group [from] someone who's loving and doing it for a whole another reason.
You're on tour right now with some bands that are presumably not Christian. What's that like?
That's actually been awesome. It's been our best tour yet. We all went into this knowing we have different beliefs, [but] we found some common ground. We personally feel that God put His hand on our tour, and that's why we've gotten along with all the bands. All the bands on tour, we're a team. We're all playing under the same roof to the same kids, and all we have pretty much is each other, [and] I think everyone realizes that.
Is it Christian to mosh?
(Laughs) Absolutely. That building is our church. If they want to dance like David danced, then they can dance like David danced (laughs).
Moshpits can be violent places, and normally you don't think of them as places of anything good happening.
Right, exactly, I understand the question. That's just what happens at a hardcore show. It's been like that ever since hardcore started. It's not going to change anytime soon, and it probably never will. We're going into those places and bringing a positive message. We're not going to go to just churches and bring our message there. We're going to go into the battlefields and trenches and have some fun with them. Maybe they'll get something out of our music as they're moshing.
When you guys first came up, you probably played with a lot of Christian bands.
Do those shows feel different from the shows that you're playing now?
Oh, absolutely. There are a lot of other kids that may not be Christian when you're going on tour with non-Christian bands, or bands who aren't as strong in their beliefs as you. It's a different group of kids. You have the kids that come and see you from the church shows mixed in with these kids. It's a totally different feel. You don't play as many churches, and you definitely play different venues than you would on a "Christian tour."
What is different?
Chemistry. I believe with Christian bands, a lot of things are overlooked, where you just assume certain things. When you're on tour with non-Christian bands, you take a very careful look into everything you do.
What kind of assumptions are you talking about?
You look more into what you say and what you do. And those bands look more into how they react to you. Instead of just giving you a run-of-the-mill answer, they don't want to offend you, and you don't want to offend them. It's like [how] in church, you act one way and outside, you act a different way. With these bands, you're just a lot more careful. I think that's why we've developed such a good chemistry, because we've gotten to know them, instead of just assuming [the same things] as with [other] Christian bands.
Do you wish you didn't have to be careful?
No, I like it like that because it makes you think. It makes you learn how different people operate. Not every band's the same. Not every belief system's the same. You learn more and more as you tour with bands with different belief systems. The awesome thing is that you learn so much about different people. If everyone [were] the same, it'd get kind of boring.
Who are the band's musical inspirations?
There's a long list of inspirations. [With] myself, [it's] more of the hardcore bands, like Integrity, Shockwave, Disciple, and Earth Crisis. As far as Steve, our guitarist, he's more [into] Nightwish, In Flames, and Children of Bodom. Our other guitarist, he has a long list of different types of music that he enjoys, pop rock and stuff like that. Our bass player is more into death metal, Nile and stuff like that. Our drummer is my brother, so he grew up listening to a lot of the music I listened to.
A lot of these are secular sources. Does that matter?
Music is music, you know? The bands we're touring with, we don't necessarily agree with what they believe, but we respect them as musicians. We can't tell them how to live their lives. Music to us is music, and we enjoy it. And not everybody can do that; not everybody can listen to the same types of music that you like. Not everybody can listen to secular music and be OK with that. It's a personal relationship.
Your lyrics are quite dramatic. Is it ever hard to deliver them night after night?
No, because I believe in them. I believe that God gave them to me for a reason, and that they're going to reach someone in the audience, whether it's one of the songs, or a part of a song. Giving [the lyrics] night after night is like I'm giving my testimony, I'm giving my heart to them. I'm screaming what I believe, and it feels good when I do that. Music is powerful. Music can make you cry, it can make you happy, it can make you really upset. Kids latch on to that. So we put it across in a very aggressive, positive way, and we love doing it. It's awesome doing it night after night.
War of Ages @ MySpace
War of Ages @ Facedown Records