I always love to present myself as someone that digs music that is the pure essence of rock and roll, so I'll appear as someone that only seems to enjoy constantly fresh music driven by distortion heavy riffs that's always constructed with guitars, bass drums and vocals alone. Yes, real rock and roll music. No bullshit. And for that reason, my absolute adoration for the new wave of metalcore bands that have evolved from the first wave of metalcore that Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying and many others ruled by making the genre their own by focusing mainly on breakdowns and adding electronic backdrops by using synthesizers that wouldn't sound out of place at your average dance club totally contradicts everything I stand for. Wether it's Asking Alexandria, We Came as Romans or the near androgynous performance of Kellin Quinn in Sleeping With Sirens, I can't get enough of this style, even if it is repetitive and killing good metal, as everyone on any comment board would like to say. And because a lot of bands brandish out the same material, it's only the truly unique and original bands that go on to become figureheads of this musical revolution, as Phoenix quintet The Word Alive have.
On their debut album Deceiver, the band demonstrated themselves to be a band full of potential with a set of synth-fueled metalcore songs, that while not fully hitting hard left some kind of impact that left listeners wanting more. Two years on with second album Life Cycles, more has been delivered in major chunks. Wether it's the greater level of ambition, a greater level of brutality, a greater level of respectability in their use of electronics and a greater level of freshness all around, there's just more. And there's more on offer everywhere to prove the cynics towards the new wave of metalcore bands wrong.
First of all, the band's desire to crush listeners has been upped for life cycles. The heaviness on the pouncing breakdowns Zack Hansen and Tony Pizzuti deliver on the likes of Dragon Spell, Ambitionary and Belong are higher on levels of intensity and undisputed heaviness. The particular standout moment of this reflection on heaviness is the rush of groove laden insanity that is Bar Fight, a song that clearly reveals a Pantera influence bounding around within the band much greater than before and will surely serve as a counter argument for those who constantly suggest that band's like The Word Alive are for "pussies".
With The Word Alive, the breakdowns and grooves are always balanced out by strong melodies and sing-along-able choruses and plenty of golden moments are on offer, from the victorious chanting from Tyler "Telle" Smith on the album's title track and the strong chorus of Live a Lie. Smith's overwhelming vocal power really helps to shoot a real sense of urgency into the album and fill it with a genuine sense of urgency.
Obviously, Deceiver has now become iconic within the New Wave of American Melodic Metalcore (NWOAMM. I used that phrase one time and forgot to use it again.) for it's high use of electronic elements in a poppier manner. However, the departure of keyboardist Dusty Riach in January followed by the band's choice to not find a replacement means that Life Cycle's more electronic elements consist more of dance club synthesizers. While they still exist on Belong, the greater amount of electronics are purely used to create more textured backdrops, such as the hyper synths that give extra spike to Entirety and powerful piano backdrop of Hidden Lakes that becomes much more poignant than the rest of the breakdowns and thrashing the song entails. What's more is the actual effort made in creating more ambient sections across the album which absorb listeners excellently. Closer Astral Plane seems like The Word Alive trying to do their own Blessed With a Curse which is genuinely solid, although kind of falls short of the song it's being compared to. However it's a clear sign that the band are trying to break any kind of mold that they were settled in on album number one.
The most important thing that makes Life Cycles is The Word Alive's incredible ability to take breakdowns, grooves and synth backdrops, which anyone can say doesn't always result in the most original of albums and do just that. Every song on this album has a new freshness with each new song. Sometimes the result of an album isn't really explainable and with Life Cycles we'll have to accept this. The entire album assaults listeners fully charged and also has the ability to become the album that finally proves that the style of metalcore that the more close-minded have assumed to be weak has a lot fight within it. Maybe it's not pure full on rock n' roll, but with performances like this, it's fresh, passionate and fucking brutal. And if that doesn't sound metal, well, you should probably stop trusting my opinions.
The Word Alive's Life Cycles is out now via Fearless.