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[Vegas]

Escape the Fate

This War is Ours

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To recap: Escape the Fate has weathered significant drama in the past few years [see Las Vegas Weekly stories dated February 23, March 26, June 18, June 26, August 5 and October 16 in 2008 alone], including the departure of guitarist Omar Espinosa and dismissal of singer Ronnie Radke. Now a foursome fronted by former blessthefall man Craig Mabbitt, Vegas’ post-hardcore rabble-rousers wasted no time entering the studio with producer John Feldmann (The Used, Story of the Year) and something to prove. And to a degree, the resulting sophomore effort rises to the challenge behind its fighting spirit and notably elevated musicianship.

Where debut Dying Is Your Latest Fashion was a grittier take on the omnipresent screamo trend, This War Is Ours strives for more enduring, hard-rock edge. Mabbitt’s voice is more polished and possesses greater range than Radke’s, but it also lacks his predecessor’s raw immediacy. Subsequently, Bryan “Monte” Money’s guitar work drives the collection of biting hooks, gang choruses and impressively dense breakdowns. The best example of this high-octane evolution, “10 Miles Wide,” features squalls and riffs crashing over fleeting death-grunt vocals, which also echo throughout “The Flood,” “You Are So Beautiful” and the title track.

Yet contrary to the impressive about-face and defiant mission statement inherent in fist-pumping opener “We Won’t Back Down,” (a modern-day take on Billy Joel’s “My Life” if ever there was one), ETF isn’t ready to abandon the past just yet. “Ashley” and “Something” land on the pop end of the spectrum, the latter a catchier effort than anything the band has produced to date. Heartsick lament “Harder Than You Know” is an honorable departure though ultimately a misfire, a generic acoustic closer even if it isn’t technically the true album capper.

That honor goes to “It’s Just Me,” an out-of-left-field cabaret showstopper that plays like a proggier Fever-era Panic at the Disco. With lyrics including “Just a little more, c’mon and satisfy me … I won’t sing anymore. I’m losing control,” it’s the closest ETF comes to overtly addressing Radke’s demons—wise if the holdovers truly want to move above and beyond their past. ETF might not have quite done that with War, but the band no longer seems like a mere assemblage of antics and guitar runs. For the first time, the Las Vegans appear to have actual lasting potential, and the determination to do whatever it takes to survive.

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Julie Seabaugh

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