I must admit, it has been a while since I have tried to single out a band from this aging “scenecore” genre in an attempt to possibly find something surprising. It seems every band in the wretched genre has found a specific mediocre sound and stuck with it, not making any attempt at all to branch out and try something different to shed hate and ultimately grow as a band. I have, however, always seemed to expect Phoenix, Arizona quintet The Word Alive to do just that. Find a sound that works and then expand on it.
Now the band definitely found their own little brand of metalcore with their 2011 debut full-length Deceiver. That’s not to say it was anything worth listening to though; it contained 10 tracks of mundane metalcore infused with blaring electronics here and there. The album did showcase that they should be recognized among their peers with solid guitar work and capable vocals, but all the positives became muddled behind the uncoordinated chaos.
When the band announced that they would be releasing another album, I was ultimately uninterested but decided to stay tuned to see if the band could in fact capitalize on the little talent that they withheld. Sadly, they did not.
Life Cycles is The Word Alive once again unleashing their Chinese water torture-esque brand of metalcore that does nothing but repeatedly bash into your skull. The monotony of this album is mind-blowing. Every song seems to start, progress and then end the same.
Spacey synth intro: check.
Screamed verse backed by bland chugs and random electronics: check.
Clean chorus with boring melody: check.
This scream/chug/sing repeat formula is mind-numbing to say the least and does nothing for the listener except maybe allow him or her to grow more of an appreciation for bands who are doing this genre a favor, like Underoath and The Chariot.
In fact, the only tracks worth mentioning at all are the title track and the closer “Astral Plane,” which are the only two attempts at anything different. The former -though sticking to a slightly similar formula as the rest- boasts slight creativity while the latter is more of an atmospheric track that closes the album quite well.
Going into Life Cycles, I was hoping that the biggest problems with Deceiver (vast amounts of chugging, boring drums, unsettling vocal melodies) would be fine-tuned for this release but it turns out that that was just wishful thinking. Not only is there bland guitar chugging in the breakdowns, but this same lack of creative spark is present in nearly every verse. And it doesn’t help that Tyler “Telle” Smith does nothing but lazily growl over every verse and wastes his solid range on shoddy melodies in the choruses. And I may be crazy but it appears that the drumming on this album is even lazier than the band’s previous effort, no doubt due to contributions of Matt Horn (a friend of the band) on drums. At least on Deceiver then-drummer Justin Salinas had incredible foot speed on the double bass pedal that his hands sadly couldn’t keep up with. Horn, however, took away that bass speed and replaced it with…well, nothing! The same drum beat is used again and again which results in a headache for the listener. It is nice to hear the sweeping solos and fidgety riffs here and there but it is not enough to overpower the overwhelming monotony of this album.
It’s safe to say that The Word Alive has disappointed me once again. Backtracking will never get you far and will ultimately lead to a band’s demise if not taken care of and I feel that is what’s in store for this one. I wish these guys the best but without any effort on their part, I don’t see much of a place for The Word Alive in my music library.
Jarrod Church – Metalcore is a bit of an interesting genre. It seems to fall into the “You either love it, or hate it” category. I suppose that can fit for most genres though – Hip-Hop, Country, Punk, etc. When it comes to the sophomore release by The Word Alive, Life Cycles further dives into the power-soaked collection that was Deceiver. While the album does not add much with regard to being fresh or new, it does display a rather enticing level of “kick-ass.” Personally, I find sophomore releases (especially after a thoroughly heavy debut) usually find themselves on the nearer-side of mainstream. Sometimes they even verge on obnoxious when compared the original, which seemed so blistering and heavy. An annoyance which seems inevitable after so many have to turned to such disappointment. This new record sounds absolutely huge and the fact that it comes as a surprise makes it all the more better. My personal score would be a 7.0, based solely on not straying from what is so evidently awesome in music.