Mastered by Patrick W. Engel at TEMPLE OF DISHARMONY in July 2023.
At War formed in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 1983. With the line-up of Paul Arnold (bass, vocals), Dave Stone (drums) and Shawn Heisel (guitars) the band recorded two raw thrash metal classics in the form of »Ordered To Kill« (1986) and »Retaliatory Strike« (1988) before taking a hiatus. They returned in all their glory in 2009 with the third album »Infidel«, which is being re-issued on High Roller Records in January 2024.
At War spokesman Paul Arnold fills us in about what happened to the band after 1988’s »Retaliatory Strike«: “We continued to tour and write music up until around 1993/94. Negotiations for the follow up to »Retaliatory Strike« were going nowhere as grunge really made things hard for a lot of metal bands and record labels, and we were no exception. It was about that time when we took a break. We never actually broke up. We just had so many other things going on in our lives at the time. We were raising kids, we were working, but we remained very to close through the nineties, 2000s, and through to the present.”
At War did continued to play live and tour up until the mid-90s, as Paul recalls: “I’m not exactly sure, buy we did a few opening slots with Pantera around 1993 and a few headliners in early 1994.” A follow up to »Retaliatory Strike« was also on the agenda in 1988/89, as the bass man and vocalist states: “We were playing several new songs live that we had not recorded and were actively writing. We did do a demo, but were not happy with the recording, so it was never released.”
However, when »Infidel« was finally recorded in 2009, the band re-visited what they had done two decades earlier: “The material on »Infidel« is a combination of songs written back in the late 1980s and new songs. We actually took a few of the older unreleased and unrecorded songs and dissected them and took the parts we really liked and wrote completely new songs. For me »Infidel« was light years different in song writing and production compared to the first two records. For me it is the best sounding album to date. I am very proud of the songs and I feel it is the best representation of At War today.”
“When we decided to do »Infidel«, we also decided we wanted to go back to Pyramid and work with Alex Perialas,” explains Paul Arnold how At War approached recording their third album. “We wanted the best sounding album we could create with the best producer we knew. We have 100% confidence in Alex’s abilities to get the best out of us and a very heavy sound. There were many telling us we didn’t need to go to a studio, that we could record this digitally, but we insisted we go in the studio and work with Alex and we are so glad we did.”
At War also decided to include a re-recorded version of “Rapechase” from »Ordered To Kill« on their third album. And this is why: “We all knew how primative »Ordered To Kill« sounded (as did many albums of that era), so we were really curious as to how it would sound recorded in a real studio with Alex at the helm. So we did it on a whim and liked it so much, we decided to put in on the album. Both versions have their own feel. Some will always like the original recording for sentimental or other reasons and some will like the newer one for its production. I like them both on their own individual merits.”
»Infidel« was actually recorded with the classic line-up of Paul Arnold (bass, vocals), Dave Stone (drums) and Shawn Heisel (guitars) in 2009, but since then there have been changes in the At War camp: “Since Dave retired from playing about eight years ago, this is our reality now. Dave was a huge part of At War and the At War sound. Dave was there from the very beginning and his natural style was unmistakenly METAL! He fit what we were doing perfectly, not to mention being a great friend as well. It was quite a blow when he retired and we weren’t sure what was going to happen. Dave left some very big and intimidating shoes to fill. Shawn and I decided that we weren’t ready to close the At War chapter, so a replacement search began. We had a few very capable guys step up and it allowed us to continue, but something was missing until now. I am so happy to announce that after several drummers we now have Brian Schroeder on drums and he has brought back to At War the brutality and precision that was so sorely needed. Brian also has been a long time friend and a one time drum tech for our original drummer Dave Stone.
We are playing out and in fact booking for 2024 as we speak and writing furiously for our next album. There have been a lot of folks asking for a new album and I have wanted to do one forever, so hopefully it will be realized in 2024 as well.”
From day one At War sang about war (and warfare). Along with Tank (and Warfare) they were the first to do so. Do they think a band like Sabaton nicked their concept? ”I’m not very familiar with Sabaton,” says Paul Arnold. “I’ve heard the name, but aren’t familiar with them, so I’ll let those that know better judge whether they feel anythings been ‘nicked’ from At War’s concept. I would say metal and warfare go together and it would be a subject many metal bands would eventually touch upon. I think we were the first band to tie ourselves to a war motif. Our thought at the time was that many people complain about things in their lives, but don’t ever do anything about what bothers them. We were sending a message saying if you have a problem in your life then declare war on it and fix that problem ... hence the band name: At War.”
On 2009’s »Infidel« At War continued to stick to this concept and included a song about the British forces called “R.A.F.”. The bassist/vocalist explains: “I have always been a huge fan of the history of World War II and as an American I felt a deep need to recognize the sacrifice, dilligence, and importance of our allies and in this instance I chose the ‘R.A.F’. This was a tragic part of history that tells a cautionary tale of what happens when the world works together to fight evil.”
As well as the lyrical themes the musical influences of Paul Arnold and At War have stayed the same since the very beginning: “I’m kind of an old dog when it comes to my influences, so they haven’t changed much over the years. I love what I love. Some of my earliest influences were bands like Venom, Motörhead, Rush, Diamond Head, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden.”