Review Summary: "I've got a heart that feels like it's a broken neck."Life // Lost
doesn’t really start off on the right foot. After a promising fade-in, “Anxiety” face-plants into a breakdown and a totally unselfconscious growl:
“Welcome to hell!”
It’s a little embarrassing, and looms over the rest of the song, which is actually big and flashy and guested by This Or The Apocalypse’s Rick Armellino, who has his own bad line to deliver:
“You’ll stay on your side of this motherf-cking line, / for all time!”
By now, though, the song has built up serious momentum; and when an urgent riff lifts up the chorus, it’s apparent that Currents have stepped up their game as a unit since 2013. When that breakdown returns with Patrizio Arpaia’s unrecognizable roar dueling Armellino’s, it’s suddenly no longer corny and mediocre - it crushes, as breakdowns should. It’s a real feat, and it’s the kind of interesting songwriting that takes over on Life // Lost
, and that just wasn’t there on their debut.
Hailing from the same state as Currents, I have to admit I didn’t get what the “Connecticut groove” was until I put this on. There’s something fluid and deftly rhythmic about Currents’s music that I haven’t heard from any other band around here. What before felt too often like a stop-start copy-paste job - stale hardcore riff here, boring metal breakdown here and here and here, digital tweaking everywhere - now flows much more naturally, and has real power.
The credit goes to vocalist Patrizio and guitarists Chris Wiseman and Ryan Castaldi. While no one is slacking, these three put in the most work - you only need the noodling first minute of “Heathen,” the melodeath-lite of “Rose,” or the giddy main riff of “Euphoria” to hear it. Chug used to be Currents’ downfall, but they’ve cut the fat and focused on more expressive patterns and tones, livening up verses, solos, and breakdowns with a newfound sense of melody, and a more studious approach to dissonance.
Even when they revert to the moshbait of “Sleep Paralysis,” they understand that it only takes one guitar pounding on the low strings, leaving the other free to mix it up with a dissonant line, some rapid arpeggios, or the cool siren-like bleeping toward the end of “Heathen.” There’s a sense that Currents have nailed their style, and are having fun just exploring it.
Patrizio, for instance, expands his range in directions he didn’t seem capable of reaching on Victimized
, making up for a pretty consistent ratio of one or two bad lines per song. The untrained bellow is gone - he roars and shrieks on Life // Lost
’s eight songs like a pro, phlegmy and monstrous, and even calms down every so often to deliver some well-done cleans, most notably on “Rose.” He also chooses to roar and shriek through the title track, a piano piece that only takes on the rest of the band for the requisite Big Finish; and if it winds up sounding a bit too facile and overwrought, it’s at least positioned well between the gentle outro to “Rose” and the explosive opening of “Stillborn,” providing a couple of minutes of peace between two of the album’s noisiest songs. I’ll hand it to Currents that it’s an interesting experiment, but it doesn’t have a lot of replay value, and probably isn’t as affecting as it would have been if approached more traditionally.
Life // Lost
doesn’t quite stick the landing, either: “Derelict” is a great song in its own right, up until the album's other guest vocalist, Matthew Youkhana of rap-metal band Devastator, enters. You can see the problem right away. He’s not technically bad, although his lyrics are even more wanting than Patrizio’s - “mother, f-ck what you think,” “a gat to your teeth, cock back and I squeeze, bitch,” and the unfortunate last words on the album, “Lights out, bitch, / I’mma shine, be quiet” - but his overall tone and style don’t mesh with Currents, to the same degree tortured vocals are just goofy over piano. Both are symptomatic of the sort of growing pains you expect of a sophomore album.
There was room to improve on Victimized
, and there’s still some room on Life // Lost
, but as they demonstrate repeatedly, Currents is willing to expand. Some pacing issues and a couple of bad judgment calls are par for this stage of their career, and easy to overlook when so many other areas show this level of refinement. Patrizio’s departure from the band will leave a hole - their last show together will be June 19 of this year, as he goes off to pursue other passions - but if they choose well, it’s as much an opportunity as the prospect of a third album.