PICK OF THE WEEK: War on Women continue facing down injustice, fight back with ‘Wonderful Hell’

Photo by Julia Schwendner

In a couple weeks (um, maybe), we’re going to find out a lot about what the next four years of our lives are going to be like once the 2020 presidential election is decided. I can imagine what people from other parts of the world think when we go on about how batshit awful things have been since Trump has been in office, but we haven’t even come close to capturing it. Much as we have tried.

The thing is, even if that shitfucker loses the election, it doesn’t mean things are over and done with and we can just breathe a sigh of relief. There remains a chasm of injustice and unnecessary pain sustained by women, people of color, the LGTBQIA+ community, the poor, and plenty of other people, so the work is really just beginning. That’s captured in a raucous blast on “Wonderful Hell,” the new album by War on Women, who have spent their entire run fighting for those who end up under the boot. The band definitely lights raging fires and blasts back at what’s become an even more oppressive government and the amount of abuse and inequality that still runs rampant in this country. But the band—vocalist Shawna Potter, guitarists Brooks Harlan and “Jenarchy” Jennifer Vito, bassist/vocalist Sue Werner, and drummer Dave Cavalier—also infuses the music with hope and a stuff kick in the ass to keep working and never forget what dragged us here so we can ensure it never happens again.

“Aqua Tofana” opens the record bleeding in as the track is fast and pushy, with Potter dealing punishment along the way. The record imagines revenge by poison, even if the intent is totally exaggerated, though try not to quiver as Potter howls, “‘He’s one of the good ones.’ Well good or not you must kill him, kill him, kill him already, kill him,” with the track ending in a power burst. “Milk and Blood” has a great riff out front and a catchy pace as things also lean toward sinister at times with Potter spitting, ” Consume and suck and eat and fuck.” The chorus is tremendous, and the soloing cutting through it all is razor sharp, filling the room with smoke that leaves you gasping. The title track burns its way in before lighting up and jolting. Potter’s words are shouted, with shrieks stabbing, and there’s a post-hardcore rush to the chorus when she sings, ” Let’s raise some wonderful, beautiful hell and make this world worth living in.” “This Stolen Land” starts with a child chorus singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” that warps out at the end before the band tears into xenophobia and the politics behind it, delivering a channeled assault that pounds away. “Shake the cages and storm the gates, the clock is ticking, and they can’t wait,” Potter wails with authority as the track continues with an energetic, yet urgent tone, with the song evaporating into a noise cloud. “White Lies” clobbers with punk catchiness, though its message is defiant and refuses to give an inch to authority. “We politely request you get your boots off our necks,” Potter demands, though there’s little patience in her request as the lack of justice fills the streets. The track is full of attitude and refusal to give an inch, and it’s an anthem for 2020 and beyond.

“Big Words” has guitars churning and chugging as strong riffs act as glue, and the vocals show vulnerability and pain. The track pokes into betrayal and intentionally damaging someone’s feelings, with the bass picking up steam and the track blasting shut. “Seeds” has a speedy pace as the words fall at an alarming clip from Potter’s mouth, while guitars spiral. “Love in wartime, how do we survive? Once we combine, we can’t be defeated,” she wails out in union with those fighting with her as anger rises, the guitars scorch, and the last bits of this thing just kill. “Her?” is a blast back against the ridiculous thought women can’t lead and the fact that they’re held to standards men are not. “But her emails! But her makeup! But her health! But her age! But her voice! But her hair! But her clothes! But her face!” Potter blasts, and that’s just the first section of the song as she and the band light fires to the way women are regarded by some in society. The track ends with a recitation of women’s names who have been impacted by such treatment, and it makes no exceptions for politics as they name Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris alongside Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman. “In Your Path” is a quick blast, lasting only 1:11 but carrying a ton of impact. Feedback boils before the track is whipped into a frenzy, as the excuses for why women are assaulted are torched with Potter stabbing, “The rapist is you!” “The Ash Is Not the End” lands punches early with Potter’s speak singing and the band dropping the hammer. “It’s all just a matter of time, it’s all just a matter of time,” Potter sings over a rousing chorus as the track takes aim at burning away poisonous systems and rebuilding them just and inclusive.  “Demon” closes the record, a darker, more reflective track that simmers in guitar echo and heavy shadows. Potter’s singing is softer, yet soulful, first time through as she notes, “In a small corner of my body, there is a demon who lives, press your hand right here, you just might feel him.” As the song builds, the heat gets more pronounced, Potter’s voice adds intensity, and the track ends feeling uneasy, as if the first bits of the wound finally are being scratched.

War on Women have been vital and volcanically sobering ever since they started, but there’s something about this year we’re in and the political climate choking us all that make “Wonderful Hell” such a crucial record. Keep in mind while there is a lot here that revels in pain and a system that aims to continue crushing people (women especially) under foot, don’t lose sight of the positives, in that we can take control and try to change this. The fight isn’t over, there is more blood and tears to be shed, and we need more people like those ones who make up War on Women to keep us focused as we swing for the fences of justice.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/WarOnWomen/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.b9store.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.bridge9.com/

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