At War was
formed in 1983 by guitarist Shawn Helsel, bassist/vocalist Paul Arnold and drummer
Dave Stone. Originally trying out vocalists they quickly decided that the brutal
form of metal they had invisioned could only be brought forth by Arnold's growling
vocals. June of 1985
saw the release of At War's first demo entitled "Eat Lead". The two song demo
almost immediatly recieved excellent reviews from fanzines and magazines, and
was high on rotation on many college radio stations in the US and an even better
reception overseas. This demo garnered At War many record deal offers and they
decided to go with a relatively new company called New Renaissance records from
California for At War's song "Eat Lead" to be released on the now classic compilation
entitled "Speed Metal" Volume I. This compilation is the holy grail among metal
collectors all over the world. This led to their first full length release "Ordered
To Kill" in 1986. So well recieved was this album and subsequent tour that New
Renaissance decided to put the second song from their "Eat Lead" demo ."Rapechase"
on their next compilation "Speed Metal Hell II" also a collectors item. After
more touring and on a roll At War immediately booked studio time with the great
Alex Perialas at Pyramid Sound to produce their awesome 1987 release "Retaliatory
Strike". With Rob"Wacko" Hunter (ex-Raven)
CO-engineering this masterpiece At War's place in the world of metal was solidified.
At War toured relentlessly through the eighties and early nineties when negotiations
began to break down with New Renaissance and the music scene was seeing a huge
change. Around 1994 At War recorded a few demos to shop around, but were never
really happy with the material so it was never released. At War played it's
last show around this time.
Shawn have remained very close friends and At War never officially called it
quits. There were several attempts to revive the band during the late nineties
and early 2000's, but with families, and businesses to run, it just was not
the time. Fast Forward to 2006. The amount of fan pressure had been and was
so intense it has finally convinced At War to get moving again. They are back
at it and have been rehearsing with the original lineup for a new album to be
recorded in early 2007. At War is going back to it's roots on this new material,
some of which was written during the "Retaliatory Strike" sessions. They are
also planning a live album. Look for them to be playing out in 2007. (written
by At War guitarist Paul Arnold)
At War - Ordered to Kill (New Renaissance) 1986
to Kill" (4:25)
2. "Dawn of Death" (3:21)
3. "Capitulation" (4:08)
4. "Rapechase" (3:35)
5. "The Hammer" (2:42)
6. "Mortally Wounded" (3:03)
7. "ILSA (She Wolf of the SS)" (5:52)
8. "Eat Lead" (4:44)
Grunt and grind,
straight out of the garage, full throttle thrash metal. At War seem to
be heavily influenced by bands like Celtic
Frost and Venom, although their lyrical direction is more influenced
by Motorhead. Machine guns,
camouflage, war, man-on-man warfare, snipers, and death are the topics
at hand. However, it's not the lyrics that anyone who likes this type
of music is interested in, rather it is the raw aggression and speed,
the belligerent soloing, and the bands tight power trio sound. "ILSA
(She Wolf of the SS)", complete with Hitler-speech intro, is the
most progressive song on the disc, and probably my favorite of the seven
originals. Of course, a thrash metal cover of Motorhead's
classic "The Hammer" is an absolute essential. The production
is raw but adds to the appeal. "Ordered to Kill" was reissued
on CD in '98 and was released as a hand-numbered, limited edition. My
copy is 62/1100.
At War - Limted Edition EP (New Renaissance Records) 1988
1. "F.Y.I." (:41)
2. "Conscintious Objector " (4:22)
3. "Creed of the Sniper" (2:43)
4. "Church and State" (3:48)
Collector's EP containing four tracks, all of which showed up on "Retaliatory
Strike". This vinyl EP was originally released as a pre-release to "Retaliatory
At War - Retaliatory Strike (New Renaissance) 1988
2. "Conscientious Object" (4:22)
3. "Creed of the Sniper" (2:44)
4. "Covert Sins" (5:38)
5. "Crush Your Life" (:14)
6. "Guiltless Sympathizer" (4:16)
7. "Church and State" (4:17)
8. "Felon's Guilt " (3:43)
9. "Thinkin'" (5:21)
10. "The Example" (:45)
was the sophomore release from At War and sports tons of those infectious
mosh grooves, tight thrash riffs, plenty of speedy guitar solos, and barked
out thrash vocals. Produced by infamous thrash producer Alex Perialis
at Pyramid Sound, this CD marks a vast improvement over the debut in terms
of recording. Retaliatory Strike is also slightly faster and heavier than
the debut, which may also be due to better recording. "Retaliatory Strike"
is fast and furious American thrash metal.
My copy is a 1999
numbered edition CD reissue (#1957). The CD contains a fairly detailed
biography on the band, as well as all the lyrics and original liner notes.
I personally think the cover for this CD is pretty generic looking, but
I have seen a better cover that features several military helicopters
attacking an enemy target.
version of "Retaliatory Strike".
War/Barbatos - Fuckadafi/Burning
Soldier (split 7" vinyl) 2002
At War - "Fuckadafi"
Barbatos - "Burning Soldier"
7" vinyl split single. Side one features a formerly unreleased At War
track titled "Fuckadafi". Not sure if this is a new track of an older
leftover. Either way it's a barnstorming thrasher! I have two of them, one blue
vinyl, one red.
At War – Infidel (Heavy Artillery Records) 2009
1. Assassins (3:24)
2. Semper Fi (3:48)
3. Make Your Move (3:11)
4. At War (3:50)
5. Want You Dead (3:51)
6. R.A.F. (4:38)
7. Deceit (3:58)
8. Vengeful Eyes (3:54)
9. Raperchase (3:44)
At War are one of the old guard from the 80’s thrash metal scene, although they were one of the lesser known bands from that scene. However, they were always one of my favorite bands. They were often accused of being a second rate Slayer rip-off, but that was just never the case. Rather, At War had this unique, barbaric, brutal sound that was more a combination of Venom and Motorhead on speed, than Slayer. After a long hiatus, At War return with their third full length assault on the senses. “Infidel” continues in the same fast, raw, thrash direction as "Ordered to Kill" and "Retaliatory Strike". However, whereas those albums were sonically pretty think, with "Infidel" the sound is vastly improved. Recorded at Pyramid Sound Studios in Ithaca, New York and engineered by legendary thrash producer Alex Perialas. Perialas has produced for Overkill, Testament and Anthrax, among many others.
At War’s lyrics will cause some waves, as they are promoting a heavy patriotic message. The cover image is a telltale message of the lyrical direction. The warfare theme echoes throughout the disc, and goes well with the bombastic music. Basically, At War are unashamed of who they are and what they believe and are unashamed to shove it in your face. This is relatively true of most thrash bands, who are usually brutally honest.
"Semper Fi" is one of the band’s best songs ever. It has memorable riffs and chorus that is reminiscent of the songs on 'Retaliatory Strike'. Likewise, the catchy "R.A.F." has a classic sound which combines the perfect blend of Venom and Motorhead. Album closer "Rapechase" is a track that appeared on their debut album and also one of the “Speed Metal Hell” compilation back in the day. This newly recorded version features a beefy guitar tone and a growling Rickenbacker bass sound.
In a scene that has become over run with new bands trying to emulate that classic thrash sound, the old guard seems to know how to thrash best. At War are bombastic, raw and heavy, yet they do it without totally forsaking quality songwriting and memorable hooks.