BY: VINNY CECOLINI
Like many ‘80s teenagers, I spent hours in front of mirrors strumming my guitar along to my favorite songs. When I finally accepted the truth—that I was better writer than a musician—I hocked my guitar and discovered a vast new world with a lot of perks. As a published journalist, I could score free music and concert tickets; I could meet and converse with my rock idols; and, I was now that kid, the one who rushed to show off the latest toys to everyone else in his group.
Although I still love “discovering” and sharing new music, I’ve grown jaded. Hard rock and heavy metal has stagnated, and writing about up-and-coming artists for nearly three decades has rendered me numb. Today, finding artists worth sharing is nearly impossible. Most of what I hear are hollow retreads and misfired homages to established bands. It is for these reasons that I was shocked out of my journalistic stupor when I first heard Weapons of Anew.
Musically, this north jersey quartet refuses to be “boxed in” or categorized. Their brash, bold, but melodic sound is colorful, layered and textured and they’re concerned with staying in the new.
It began with former HavocHate and Axiom guitarist Freddy Ordine, who decided it was time to “concentrate on hooks.”
“I wanted to experiment with harmonies and melodies,” he explains. “I wanted to play music that came naturally to each member of this band. I wanted to work on songs and then immediately record them. I wanted to capture that spontaneity; that raw vibe; that fresh energy.”
After HavocHate grinded to a halt—the victim of internal strife and frequent lineup changes—Ordine found himself at a crossroads. Yes, he now had time to focus on his growing family, but he was not done with music. So, while contemplating his “next musical move,” he decided it was time to seek out a new “musical partner in crime,” a vocalist who could help bring the musical ideas to life. He found exactly what he was looking for when he was introduced to former Spread Eagle singer Ray West.
Known for his raspy, melodic, soulful and psychotic vocals, West was a recording veteran, whose former band was signed to MCA records. When Ordine and West first connected, it felt as if the two had been lifelong friends.
“The first time we jammed, there were fireworks,” Ordine recalls. “In addition to his amazing, versatile voice, [West] immediately added another dimension to what this band was creating. He’s also a great songwriter and lyricist.”
As for the bands’ rhythm section, the guitarist reached out to HavocHate’s former touring bassist Stefan “Reno” Cutrupi, who Ordine admits to “wanting to collaborate with since first meeting him in ’05.”
The guitarist beams. “Reno has a very unique approach to his instrument. The way he stacks parts on top of mine and creates layers is simply amazing to watch.
“Chris [Manfre] has all the elements a great rock drummer should have: energy, drive and the ability to hit hard. I knew the second I saw him play that he was special and meant for this project.”
Regardless, the most talented artists need a little luck or face being the proverbial “tree in the woods” and never being heard. Weapons of Anew’s break came late last December when they were invited to open “The Last Hero” tour, which featured Alter Bridge and Nonpoint.
“Alter Bridge heard our music and liked,” sums up Ordine.
While many acts opening for artists as popular as Alter Bridge and Nonpoint collapse under the immense pressure, Weapons of Anew flourished, feeding off of each capacity crowd’s energy while growing their following. They received constant critical acclaim, unusual for a band performing their first live shows.
Shockwave Magazine (shockwavemagazine.com) declared: “[Weapons of Anew] had no shortage of energy with their stage performance. [And they] left the crowd wanting more.”
Yes, the band performed like season professionals throughout the tour—despite being new to the stage and having yet to release their debut full-length. All that anyone in the crowds could get their hands on was the band’s debut single “Killshot.” A fatal mistake for most band’s opening major tour, but not Weapons of Anew. The band quickly realized the stage was their home and didn’t require time to jell or find their live “live footing.” The months toiling away in their private rehearsal space and recording studio had certainly prepared Weapons of Anew for what awaited them.
In addition to the musicians’ professional, Weapons of Anew’s live success can be attributed to West, a born frontman whose confidence and command of the stage certainly “warmed up crowds” for the headliners.
Musicianship coupled with powerful, charismatic vocals are important, but even the most talented artists would stumble without creative, catchy songs. And, as “The Last Hero” tour audiences will attest, each of the band’s songs resonate. From their set opener “Brave” to their debut’s closing track—the inevitable radio hit–“Undone,” Weapons of Anew never relented.
“It was awesome to see these songs work live,” beams West, who is chomping at the bit to get back on the road. “Performing live was when I first felt validation. It is a complete different trip from recording the songs and waiting for the public to consume them. Sure, it will be great performing in front of audiences familiar with the words, the grooves, and the guitar solos, but that will come in time.”
Lyrically, Weapons of Anew’s music is both a visceral and abstract view of West’s surroundings.
“I write from a personal view point,” explains West. “Whether it is about life or social situations, I have always felt that the best words are those that a listener can take and make his or her own.”
Weapons of Anew’s debut, which the band may or may not title “The Collision of Love and Hate” (they may just leave it “self-titled”)—was produced by the band James Murphy (ex-Death, Testament and Cancer). Although notoriously authoritative, Murphy collaborated with the band as if he was an additional member, offering and receiving ideas to make the source material stronger. The end results were mixed by Mike Ferretti (Sevendust and Warren Haynes, among others), who was able to capture the band’s organic, live sound while staying away from pro-tools- or auto-tune-embellishing.
Feeling victimized by MCA’s poor handling of Spread Eagle, West has been reluctant to simply jump at the record deals that have been offered to the band. Weapons of Anew are carefully sorting through them all before signing on any dotted line. But The Symphony of Rock will keep you posted.
And, as for the meaning behind the band’s unusual name, Ordine sums it up when he says, “We’re four musicians who have quickly become this well-oiled machine; this new musical weapon.”