Unless you’ve been living under the biggest rock imaginable, 2020 has been the year that all of the ugliest traits of humanity jumped out from all corners. Still, even if you don’t count the last few months, feminist punks War On Women have been given a great deal of inspiration in the previous decade. The timing couldn’t have been better for their third album, ‘Wonderful Hell’.
And from the moment you press play, it’s clear that they don’t just talk the talk, they can walk the walk with flying colours. Their riot grrrl influence is well-documented, but it’s so much more than hero worship; we have metallic riffs that Shawna Potter‘s melodies sit perfectly over.
It’s also clear that lyrically this avoids the clichéd metaphors about Donald Trump being generally not a very nice person, and covers a range of themes and topics. And it’s right in at the deep end thematically for ‘Aqua Tofana’ (a song named after a poison from the 17th century largely used for driving abusive husbands to a slow and painful death); the lyrics will no doubt leave an impression and make some uncomfortable, which is exactly what this song sets out to do.
‘Milk & Blood’ is dominated by an infectious hook, and the title-track is a return to the fast-paced punk stylings. You’ll definitely want to scream along to the chants and melodies, and the musical canvas seems to be as strong as it’s ever been. Even with the wide-ranging musical dexterity and blunt lyrics, there’s still a feeling that this could have a mass appeal.
‘This Stolen Land’ continues to deliver home truths and lay their beliefs bare, providing a brilliantly-delivered riposte of top-down racism. This album delivers on all fronts, and their dangerous combination only gets more potent as the album progresses. ‘White Lies’ is another highlight that further demonstrates Potter‘s vocal prowess, with a tense section shifting brilliantly into a rousing chorus.
The almost mathcore ‘Her?’ is the band at their most aggressive in every sense of the word. The lyrics are seething with fury, the jazz-like switches make an already impressive number all the more powerful, and the gradual build-up at the end makes for possibly the best song on the album.
Closer ‘Demon’ shows that the band aren’t quite done yet. A droning guitar effect makes for an ominous effect, in addition to thudding drums and a more restrained Potter vocal. The multi-layered vocals another expertly delivered build-up shows that they’ve saved a moving highlight right until the end. They can do the emotionally charged slow-burners just as well as the righteous rage that precedes this.
In a year where there’s been many contenders, the brilliantly-titled ‘Wonderful Hell’ may be one of the best politically-charged albums of 2020.