[25 January 2009]
Warship is a duo featuring former members of metalcore stalwarts From Autumn to Ashes. Fran Mark handles the vocal and drumming duties while Rob Lauritsen plays guitar and bass. Their debut album Supply and Dependgets off to a rocky start with “Toil”. A decent, but not great, guitar riff is quickly followed by Mark’s screamed lyrics. His screaming voice is subpar to average at best, and was always one of his previous band’s biggest weaknesses. Sure, he can yell his head off, but there’s no power behind it; he just sounds like a regular guy shouting at the top of his lungs. There are people in heavy metal who can make this type of vocal compelling, but Mark is not one of them. Musically, the rest of “Toil” isn’t all that interesting. Second song “Profit Over People” is more of a hardcore track, although a melodic guitar line shows up in the chorus to make the piece slightly more interesting. But once again Mark’s shouted vocals do nothing in particular to help the song out.
At this point I was prepared for a long, boring slog through the rest of the album. But a funny thing happens on Supply and Depend‘s third song, “Wounded Paw”. Starting with a soft, mid-tempo guitar riff, Mark soon comes in with an above-average singing voice. Sure, he sounds slightly whiny, but it’s a big improvement over his earlier shouting, and the change of speed hints at a musical range that the first two songs did not. Ninety seconds in, the song accelerates into the same kind of metalcore as the first two tracks, but with more interesting guitar playing, and the song quickly settles back into its earlier, slower tempo. The end of the song, back at full speed, also features some interesting drumming from Mark, the first real spark of creativity he shows on the drums. Surprisingly, “Wounded Paw” is actually a pretty good song, and Warship has started to show some life.
Track four, “Where’s Your Leash” has a great, complicated guitar riff from Lauritsen, who complements himself nicely with a bassline that weaves around the guitar instead of just echoing it. Mark makes a good call by splitting the vocals between a sing-shout and outright shouting, and shows off some real chops on the drums throughout the song. Next, “Lousy Horoscope” borders on a power ballad, albeit with more of the dark feel of a band like Failure or A Perfect Circle. Mark’s singing is at its best so far here, and Warship make a canny choice to accelerate the song after three minutes with a great drum solo that drives the final 90 seconds of the tune. “We’ve Never Been Equal” shows off yet another side of the band, as Lauritsen creates a guitar riff that sounds straight out of the Queens of the Stone Age playbook.
The remainder of the album’s ten songs returns somewhat to the earlier metalcore style of the beginning of the disc, but the band continues to throw musical curveballs. Mark’s shouting vocals are much more tolerable when he contrasts them with actual singing within the same song. He also shows a knack for the drums, locking in on some deep grooves with Lauritsen’s basslines and pounding the skins with real power while avoiding generic blast beats. Those basslines are also a subtle highlight of the album. Lauritsen’s knack for crafting bass parts that are distinct from his guitar playing gives the album a bit more pop than most metal records. Producer Andrew Schneider keeps the bass audible, but bubbling under the mix, resulting in a disc with significant low end.
Unfortunately, all of Lauritsen’s guitar leads and riffs aren’t winners, which keeps Supply and Depend from working all of the time. When he has a good one the songs become compelling. But when he has a miss on his hands, the duo tend to cover it by having Mark shout his way through the song. The album’s first two tracks suffer greatly from this tactic. Still, Warship recovers nicely from that shaky beginning to deliver a solid first album.