I Declare War guitarist-songwriter Evan Hughes is a metal lifer. Raised in the shadow of the Reno strip, he found his salvation early on in heavy music. “There isn’t a lot to do there unless you’re 21 years old or older since everything is based around gambling. That’s why I turned to music around the age of 12.” When asked to name the band that he first obsessed over as a teen, Hughes doesn’t hesitate to give an answer. “If Slipknot never existed, I wouldn’t have ever gotten into heavy music. I discovered them when I was 13 years old and I still think their self-titled release is one of the heaviest albums of all time.”
After high school, Hughes relocated to the Pacific Northwest to attend college, which is where his life would take on a new path. “I moved to Seattle and that’s where I met the guys in I Declare War. They were already established by that time and had an EP out. I helped them out by selling their t-shirts or whatever else they needed. Around three months after I got up there, one of their original guitarists quit the band, so I joined. That summer we played a show at least once a week. It didn’t matter who we were playing with or where it was, we just wanted to get out there and get better.”
Hughes isn’t kidding. I Declare War soon released Amidst the Bloodshed, their 2007 debut album, and spent the next few years on the road playing dates with everyone from Whitechapel to Suicide Silence. Their blue collar work ethic paid off when the metal quintet landed a deal with Artery Recordings. In 2010, I Declare War released their critically-acclaimed sophomore album, Malevolence.
Nowadays rock journalists and fans alike are obsessed with genre tags, and many people named I Declare War one of the leaders of the so-called deathcore scene. Whatever genre you want to assign them, Hughes isn’t wasting time worrying about it. “Whenever someone asks me what kind of music we play, I tell them metal. If someone wants to be dumb and pigeonhole us to some sub-sub-sub-genre of something else, that’s fine. A lot of people call us a deathcore band and that’s fine, whatever. At the end of the day, we’re a metal band.”
After a successful string of tours in support of Malevolence, I Declare War wrote the most compelling material yet and entered the studio with Andreas Magnusson (The Black Dahlia Murder, Born of Osiris) to work on their self-titled third album. “Andreas knows the kind of music we play really well. It was a relief to be in the studio with someone we didn’t have to explain things to. He pushed us hard and got the best performances of our career so far,” says Hughes.
If there’s an art to the breakdown, then I Declare War are the Pablo Picassos of the current metal scene. “People have told me that they think we write the best breakdown parts, but I’m not even sure how it happens. I just know that I write what I would want to hear another band do. With this new album we tried to make those breakdown sections a bit catchier than we have in the past. One of my favorite metal bands is The Red Chord and I recently realized that some of my favorite songs by them had these amazing groove parts. I think I just gravitate towards those kinds of rhythms and on the new I Declare War album, I explored that.”
I Declare War also features the debut recorded performance of new vocalist Jamie Hanks. “I can’t tell you how happy we are having Jamie in the band. On our last record, we had some of the lowest vocals around. But we realized that we really needed some variety in that department. Some of the criticism in the reviews for our older stuff was that the vocal parts got really monotonous, and that was true. With Jamie in the band, he can do the really low parts, but he’s also got more range to his delivery. It adds another layer of dynamics to the songwriting and it’s the ingredient that we needed to progress. The band is really excited to have him onboard,” reveals Hughes.
A month outside of their album’s release, I Declare War leaked a new track called “Misery Cloud” to whet their fans’ appetites. “A lot of people misinterpreted what that song is about. It’s actually about locusts and if you’ve ever been around them, you already know how loud it can be when they swarm. It’s really creepy. We stayed at a friend’s house in Missouri on the way to record the album and one day we’re driving down the road and we could hear them just outside of our van. So we wrote a song talking about how terrifying it would be to be attacked by a swarm of locusts.”
“We normally tune to G sharp, but on this one song called “Pale Skin,” we tuned down to F sharp. It’s definitely the heaviest track on the album in terms of its pacing and lyrical intensity. The lyrics are about a 5-year-old girl who has cancer. She prays and prays and her family thinks that God will save her, but she ultimately dies. So it’s like, how can an all-loving God do this to an innocent little girl?”
With the new album being the beast that it is, Hughes is understandably excited about the future of I Declare War. “From the music to the lyrics to the album art, we wanted this album to come off as powerful, thought-provoking, and depressing. We made it self-titled because to us it really represents what we’ve always wanted to accomplish as a band. We are all confident this is our best work yet, so we thought what could be better name than to describe who I Declare War really is? Andreas did an amazing job capturing the sound we were going for. We're all extremely proud of the result and can't wait to get out on the road in support of it!”