Review Summary: Flashiest metalcore album in far too long, and in the best way possible.
If you've been a fan of The Word Alive (TWA for short) since the EP days of Craig Mabbitt and Empire introducing Telle Smith, you're well aware that the boys in TWA aren't cookie cutter in the genre (unless you wanna be an asshole, then sure go ahead). Practically picking up where As I Lay Dying and Atreyu did with An Ocean Between Us and The Curse, this Arizona based group has more or less kept alive an anomaly of an ever-fluid genre: the riff. And furthermore, preserving the sanctity of the guitar solo whilst still tossing in the ever so popular breakdown. Deceiver lit a torch of hope for the fans of old as far as metalcore goes, so when Life Cycles dropped and didn't follow up as much with the hype of hard hitting tracks like The Hounds of Anubis, 2012, and We Know Who You Are that torchlight began to dim. Life Cycles never really garned the same amount of attention as its predecessor aside from the title track which was promptly added as a staple to the band's setlist (usually as a set ender) most likely due to Challenger by Memphis May Fire dropping around the same time. Well this time, REAL was given its own pedestal to be judged upon.
From the getgo we notice a vast improvement of singing by Telle and a much more methodical drumming approach by the Youtube drumming icon Luke Holland. Telle Smith started off as a mostly screaming type, with singing mainly for the sake of choruses besides a couple songs with a good amount of singing verses, but it was a surprise to see him belt out some nice notes on tracks such as Life Cycles and Astral Plane as LP2 came out. As a drummer, I was very happy to see that at least the two early tracks lived up to the hype of Holland's fame. But regardless of these two shining improvements to the band's recorded repertoire, the most exciting aspect to TWA's newest album is easily the much more technical guitars. Almost comparable to Trivium's Shogun (though not nearly as lengthy or dark), the guitar bravados in Zack Hansen and Tony Pizzuti take the album almost in its entirety (no pun intended) to shred away at any given chance.
In reference to the songwriting itself, it feels like the band very much hit their stride. You'd be hard pressed to find a recycled verse even with all of the flashy riffing throughout the record. No chorus is rehashed too often and all of them have their own personality which is a major tune-up where Life Cycles failed big time. The quality of the verses on Terminal shine the most by far, opening with powerful wails and a very dark chorus. The second chorus expands with a crazy wail from Telle and the song expands yet again with a strong yet short build-up verse between the second and third chorus which ends the song and is my personal favorite on the album. The anthematic nature of The Runaway, the brooding nature of Glass Castle and 94th St., and the ridiculous shredding on To Struggle and Claw My Way are a few more examples of some fantastic writing on the part of the band.
In conclusion, The Word Alive seems to have found a perfect niche of time in their still young careers to release an album because there are very few boring moments on the record. TWA is now their own brand of metalcore somewhere between the old and the new, channeling elements of Killswitch Engage or Trivium as well as blessthefall or We Came As Romans. They continue their mission to keep alive the highly endangered shred, yet sell well with the inclusion of well-placed breakdowns to appease the young'uns.
Rec'd Tracks: Glass Castle, Terminal, The Runaway, Your Mirage