The Word Alive – Life Cycles
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Record Label: Fearless
This past winter I heard the familiar “ding” from computer indicating that I had a new email waiting for me. It was an message from Tyler “Telle” Smith, vocalist of The Word Alive, sending me some (very) rough demos of songs they were working on for their upcoming second album. I was fairly impressed by the four demos. Some were just instrumental, other had some vocals by Smith that were yet to be mixed. The one that stood out to be the most was an instrumental, named “dec 23full.” Featuring simmering keys, a pounding drum kick, and massive guitar tones, I messaged Smith back stating that this song had the potential to be huge and I hope that this was a sign of what was to come on their upcoming album. Needless to say, my interest was definitely piqued in hearing how The Word Alive would separate from the crowded metalcore pack.
Seven months later and I finally have a copy of The Word Alive's sophomore album, Life Cycles, and it hardly disappoints. The aforementioned song ended up being “Entirety,” and I was very pleased to hear that it maintained that massive aura, as it features one of the (many) monstrous choruses on the album. Smith told me that he wanted Life Cycles to showcase his strides as a vocalist. Not only has Smith improved dramatically from 2010's Deceiver, he's also becoming a larger than life presence in each Word Alive song.
Opening track “Dragon Spell” (which serves as a shout out to TWA fans) is a pulverizing reintroduction of The Word Alive. Crushing guitar chords and breakdowns galore, Smith bellows out his motivations throughout (“This is a family/don't fuck with family” and “I'll never let my family down/fight for what you stand for”). It sets the tone for the thirteen track brouhaha, as Smith's lyrics are generally more positive this time around than on Deceiver. Take for example the album's title track, which begins with solemn organ keys before leading into a colossal eruption of electric keys and an assault of guitar chords. It's dripping in passion as Smith exclaims, “I'd rather die for what I believe/than to live a life without meaning.” It serves as the main theme of Life Cycles – the strive to be something more than just falling into conformity.
And The Word Alive definitely aim for that goal throughout the album, giving each of its thirteen new tracks a soul of their own, never replicating anything. The technical aspects of the band run rampant on Life Cycles, replacing some of the riffing from Deceiver with more keys and electronic glitches. Despite losing their keyboardist, the band worked together (namely guitarist ZacK Hansen and Tony Pizzuti) to bring the intricate noises you hear on songs. Whether it's providing dark undertones to “Hidden Lakes” or bringing out the vibrancy in “Ambitionary,” the collaborative effort from the quintet is impressive. Team TWA also throws a curve at the end of the album with the haunting “Astral Plane,” as Smith eerily channels the spirit of Chino Moreno.
But The Word Alive still knows what their bread and butter is – soaring choruses packaged within punishing metalcore songs. “Bar Fight” features a killer pre-chorus that certainly call for the Wall of Death at the next TWA show, while “Room 126” was created solely to destroy ear drums. The song is a parade of breakdowns while also throwing in a snarling guitar solo from Zack Hansen and more howling yells from Smith. It's The Word Alive at its very best – combining different elements of modern metalcore into one unbeatable monster.
Even if this isn't your preferred genre, there is no denying that Life Cycles is one of the most personal and genuine albums of 2012. There's nothing manufactured here. This is what I've been waiting for since I heard those demos months ago. I could sense it in that collection as well as in my conversations with Smith, and it's truly exciting to see a band not just reach, but shatter their goal. The Word Alive isn't trying to be the next this or the biggest that, rather Telle Smith and company are just trying to give music fans something honest and heartfelt, something they accomplish wholeheartedly on Life Cycles.
Tried to get into Deceiver but I just didn't dig much of it beyond Battle Royale. So I was hoping for a redemption in this album. I definitely got it! Bar Fight, Life Cycles, Belong, and Room 126 are a freaking MAD HOUSE!