This is one busy year for Toledo, Ohio’s Premonitions Of War - and it’s only mid-January. In support of their phenomenal full-length debut ‘Left In Kowloon’, The War is on tour now till mid-March with bands like Bury Your Dead and Burnt By The Sun, among others. Only having a couple days off here and there during the stint, according to vocalist/growler Brad with whom I spoke recently while at their San Antonio stop, this is their longest tour so far. Another exciting aspect is that it’s the first time in about three years the guys have played the West Coast.
And Brad feels the shows have been going well so far, even though the majority of the band was sick when we chatted. Turns out when they embarked on the tour, their van broke down a few times in Omaha and Iowa and “it was excessively cold there,” explains the frontman, and consequently, everyone got sick. He was on the road to recovery, as was new recruit Adam, but some of the other guys weren’t faring so well. Luckily however, the illness hasn’t really affected their performance; it’s just more of an annoyance and was a bit tough on Brad’s vocal chords.
In any case, in the NYC/Long Island area, the guys will be playing Knitting Factory February 8th and Molly Blooms II in Amityville February 12th, and then will be hitting Brooklyn’s L’amour March 14th while out for a short jaunt with Macabre, so there are plenty of chances to see this incredible act live. And after these dates (as of the San Antonio stop, he claimed there were about 40 shows left), The War will be going back out on a full U.S. tour supporting Morbid Angel on their American Heretic tour, along with Suffocation, and Satyricon beginning April 13th. Following this outing, they next have their sights set on Brazil for the end of May, but nothing has been confirmed yet, and then will most likely go to Europe in the fall if all goes as planned. Brad confides that this year’s overall purpose is “basically going places that we’ve never been before, playing to pretty much anyone that will listen to us.”
And somehow, in spite of this daunting schedule, Premonitions Of War still manage to find time to work on new material. Some future releases to look forward to from the band are split 7”’s with The Red Chord on Relapse and on Happy Couples Never Last Records, one with The Dream Is Dead, as well as a split CD with Benumb on Thorp. Seriously, does this band ever slow down?
Just as the guys in the band are rooted in hardcore, they wished to work with a record label whose background was similar, hence the logical choice of signing to Victory in 2003. Their resulting debut LP, the aforementioned ‘Left In Kowloon’, comes out January 27th. Previously, the five-piece that now includes Brad – January marks the one-year anniversary of his enlistment in The War – guitarists Matt and Pat, drummer Dustin, and bassist Adam, have put out a s/t EP in 2000 and in 2002, an EP called ‘The True Face Of Panic’. But let me just digress for a moment…After recently splitting with their bassist, the guys picked up Adam just before this tour began. Having done two tours with his band The Red Chord as well as one with his other band Beyond The Sixth Seal, they knew Adam well and were already friends with him. Brad seems quite confident in the decision to go with Adam, stating there was no thought necessary in choosing the new bass-slinger: “[He] was definitely the logical choice for us,” adding, “He knew the songs right away and [he’s] definitely very professional.” And so far, it’s been working out extremely well.
Anyway, this full-length is, quite simply, one fine slab of pummeling metal/thrash/grind/hardcore madness. Brad is quick to describe The War’s sound as “abrasive and condensed,” explaining, “Since we’re all into a huge amalgamation of music, we basically look to incorporate anything we like into our playing style, but just cut out all the unnecessary stuff and condense it down into the most dense formula we can get a hold of.” As a result, their songs are rather short in length. Logically, Brad says, “Once we’ve accomplished where we’re trying to go with a song, there’s no real reason to stretch it out.” And this condensed, to-the-point style is evidenced on the record in spades, as a majority of the album is composed of blisteringly fast, short tracks.
Yet, there are a few numbers that differentiate from the norm. The most noteworthy track is “Black Den”, a piece that, along with the following track “Cables Hum Overhead” (a song that features Pat’s programming, drum machines, distorted guitars, and samples collected - and ultimately warped - by Pat and Brad), act as somewhat of a respite from the grinding storm. Appearing in the middle of the record, these two offerings pack a powerful punch and also aid in allowing “people a minute to…collect their thoughts if they listen to the record from beginning to end,” according to Brad. In regards to “Black Den”, it begins quite frantically and appears to be similar in style to the previous tracks until the slow, sludgy, crushing “drawn out” part that goes on for minutes on end, making this song powerful and elaborate, but never boring or tedious. Brad expounds, “As far as the entire record just being smash, crush, destroy the whole way through, we wanted to kinda like while retaining heaviness and abrasiveness, at the same time we wanted to not metal it out, but slow it down a little bit but still have it be as oppressive as the rest of the record.” This song is a result of the guys’ desire to keep their own signature sound but also incorporate some elements from the “really slow, heavy” music they listen to.
And this idea is a prime example of how the band’s sound has progressed through the years, from record to record. Brad has no doubt they’ve evolved, claiming, “I think in pretty much every respect…it’s just definitely a progression.” He elaborates, saying on this record, “the slow parts are a lot slower, a lot more like not necessarily drawn out, but they’re just a lot heavier. There’s a lot more blasting on the record…It’s just our sound that we’ve developed taken up one more notch.” On this album they experimented with aspects they hadn’t incorporated into their sound before, and the end result is excellence. (Pardon my gushing, but people, check out this record and you’ll see what I mean…).
Parallel to the shortness of a majority of the songs, the album itself was written pretty quickly. The vocalist explains, “We had a lot of ideas and…we tend to hammer things out pretty quickly.” Plus, he continues, “We had a lot of stuff going on so we had a really short amount of time in which to write the record.” And Brad confesses that this scenario helped because they work well under pressure. He describes the conditions thusly: “It was a few weeks of really concentrated…writing and playing and rewriting and cutting things out,” as they tried “to refine everything and get it exactly how we wanted it to sound.”
At first, Brad relates that he doesn’t know how their debut full-length will fair. “It’s kinda hard for me to say,” expounding, “Your record is your baby and you want everyone to like it – it’s a project that you poured a lot of yourself into.” However, upon further thought, he deduces it will probably be widely accepted and acclaimed. After all, he reveals that many people in bands who have heard the album already have nothing but praise for it. And this bodes well for how the average fan will respond, as he reasons, “From that, I would surmise that the reaction is gonna be pretty good.” Surely the metal/hardcore community will accept ‘Left In Kowloon’ with open arms. It’s a pulverizing, brutal, yet thoughtful tour de force – a great record with which to kick off 2004.