For I Am War, the battle begins with Outlive You All.
On their debut album for Razor & Tie due out August 28, 2012, the duo of Alex Varkatzas [Atreyu] and Brandan Schieppati [Bleeding Through] fires off a furious blast of metallic hardcore punk. It's punctuated by piercing screams, razor sharp riffs, and beats that explode on impact. Given their respective pedigrees, these two are certainly no strangers to heavy music, but this is a sensory assault unlike anything they've done in the past. Outlive You All resounds as their first collective battle-cry.
I Am War was born from a pure place for Varkatzas. While in the midst of a 2011 tour with Atreyu, he sat on the bus contemplating writing music that fully embraced his hardcore roots. Simply put, it had to be brief, blunt, and brutal.
"I wanted to do something pissed-off that had no constraints or expectations," reveals Varkatzas. "I didn't want to sing. I wanted to emote by screaming. That's natural for me. I also knew I had to work with the most aggressive dude I could find. Brandan was the first person who came to mind. We grew up together, and I've seen him play a million times in various bands. I sent him an email and let the idea stew. As soon as I got off tour, we tried everything out, and it worked."
Schieppati concurs, "Everything instantly clicked. I was stoked when Alex got in touch. We wanted to keep it fast with very little 'shredding'. It hearkens back to the good ole days of angry music."
With Schieppati handling guitars, bass, and backing vocals and Varkatzas on the brunt of the screaming, I Am War entered an Orange County studio with Mick Kenney [Anaal Nathrakh] behind the board. In between both of their day jobs as personal trainers (both owning their fitness facilities as well), these two men channeled an unbridled energy onto tape. They emerged from the sessions with 15 songs that engage a raw sonic beatdown.
"It was really organic and natural," the guitarist says of the creative process. "We didn't overthink anything, and it was fun. Whatever came out of us went right to tape."
Debuted online, the visceral hardcore anthem "The Poisoning" gave the world its first taste of I Am War. Roaring with thrash intensity and incisive gang vocals, it embodies a classic ethos with a modern vitriol.
"I have a soft spot in my heart for that song," smiles the vocalist. "It's the first song Brandan and I wrote together. So many people are insincere and get drawn into drama over and over again. Human beings have an addiction to it, and I began seeing that in a lot of people around me—including myself. That really bummed me out. At the most base level, it's about letting drama into your life, acting as if you don't like it but secretly creating it like an addict. You feed off of it, and it poisons you at the same time."
Then, there's "Bat Out Of Hell" which ups the ante with a vicious stomp. Dropping as a limited edition vinyl single June 26, it's one minute and sixteen seconds of double bass violence.
Varkatzas goes on, "Life can be a whirlwind of emotions. It's about letting those rip out of you in a positive way. For me, I'll work out or run. It's different for everyone. That outlet makes you feel like a force to be reckoned with."
Speaking of a force to be reckoned with, "Plug Me In" directly references the feeling the singer experienced seeing his favorite bands back in the day. At the same time, "Uninvite Me To Your Facebook Pity Party" raises a middle finger to whiners online and off-line with acidic screams.
Both individuals have already left an indelible imprint on modern heavy music. In Atreyu, Varkatzas sold over 1.7 million albums and played to crowds worldwide. The band's music also fueled soundtracks ranging from Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Underworld: Evolution to the Madden video game series. Within the same scene, Schieppati moved in excess of 300,000 albums globally in Bleeding Through and has been a member of various other outfits such as Suffer Well since 1999.
In many ways, the title proves all-encompassing. "It comes from being older now," reveals Schieppati. "For years, critics looked at bands like Atreyu and Bleeding through as flash-in-the-pan-type bands that will have a moment and then disappear. However, both of our bands have been around for over a decade and spearheaded a whole genre. We're still here, involved, and making music."
At the end of the day, catharsis is the most important thing for I Am War. "Brandan and I aren't doing this to become rich assholes and travel the world," affirms Varkatzas. "We wanted to make an awesome record and release it. There's no pressure to produce a hit or conquer the charts. The only pressure is not to look like complete jackasses. That's liberating. I just hope it's an intense and enjoyable experience for listeners. It's about setting fire to everything and seeing what happens."
That's why I Am War will undoubtedly Outlive You All.