Fresh off of the 2014 Van’s Warped Tour with only one song released publicly, Alive Like Me has got loads of potential to be the next big thing. They’ve got the instrumental talent. They’ve got attention-commanding vocals from frontman Jairus Kersey. They’ve got anthem-like and positive lyrics that could have been penned from bands that have been in the biz longer than they have. And they’ve got the looks to appeal to fangirls everywhere (think post-hardcore 5 Seconds of Summer). Their debut album Only Forever is only the beginning of this fairly new (they formed less than two years ago) alternative band.
Only Forever is filled with a strong handful of heavy lyrics and even heavier instrumentation. The percussion storms in from beginning to end, electric guitars (especially in tracks like “Wreckage” and “Meant For This”) stand out without taking away from the intensity of the subject matter, and Kersey’s growling, Kellin Quinn-esque vocal range ties each track together as if he were the black ribbon on the perfect scene kid birthday present. Alive Like Me also incorporates haunting pianos paired with metalcore characteristics and clean vocals throughout the album (“Slip Away”, “Start Again”, “Only Forever”, “Lost Without You”) and greatly helps them stick out against other young in the same genre.
The album begins with the emotional yet empowering breakup anthem “Better Off” and ends with the heart-wrenching “Never Looking Back” – both very strong songs for a young, newbie band. The rest of the album consists of the upbeat, xylophone infused “What Did You Expect?”, the Paramore‘s “Decode”meets Linkin Park‘s “Somewhere I Belong” hybrid “Lost Without You”Only Forever is reminiscent of Hawthorne Heights in the form of the title track, and “Searching For Endings” – a ballad where Kersey’s vocals strongly resemble that of My Chemical Romance‘s Gerard Way in “Welcome To The Black Parade.”
I can go on and on about how impressive Alive Like Me is for a relatively new band and their songwriting skills are by far the most impressive quality of their debut album. The combination of singles “Our Time Down Here” and “Start Again” perfectly embody what the band was trying to accomplish in this album. “Our Time Down Here” is a total coming-of-age track that reminds the listener that no matter how much advice gets thrown your way “you have to fall before you grow”. The track can also be an apology from a rebellious kid who said “I’d rather do this on my own than fall right into place” with the heartbreaking line “I am so sorry if you think I didn’t need you”.
Debut single “Start Again” intros with pianos and transitions into hard-hitting instrumentals to match the intensity of its lyrics. The emotion in Kersey’s vocals when he sings about being “tired of waiting for the right moment to appear” and fed up with being constantly knocked down by the people who should be keeping him up (“they say ‘it’s harder on your own” and “you know it’s true/but now I’m ready to break through”). He is quite aware that fighting his adversaries will be an ongoing battle (“I’m sure that this will not be the end of my suffering”) and the chorus truly does showcase that “it’s never too late to pick yourself up and start again”. I can already imagine an acoustic version of this song being an utter tear-jerker for anyone trying to make the people around them proud.
Only Forever definitely has its fair share of energetic rock songs, but final track “Never Looking Back” is an exceptional ballad that focuses on encouraging the listener that there is strength in numbers and that someone is always going to be ready to catch you when you stumble. In fact, the song is clearly written in the perspective of the person who is trying to instill a sense of empowerment with lines like “it’s time to let them know we’re in control” and “we will sing this until they hear us/and we will rise up until they fear us”. Ultimately, those that put us down will see that “we are a storm that they can’t control”.
Alive Like Me’s debut effort is solid and showcases the same star potential as label-mates Sleeping With Sirens and management-mates Pierce The Veil. While each song sounded similar to each other, not one of them felt out of place, each one held their own as if they were individual singles, and all were dripping with emotion and charisma through both lyrics and vocals. I’m interested to see what else this young alternative rock band has to offer in their future endeavors.