Going in to Life Cycles, my hopes were sky-high. I was expecting no less than a wholly inspiring follow-up to 2010’s Deceiver, and I am thrilled to say I wasn’t disappointed. In an effort that has gone awry for many a band before them, The Word Alive’s impressively experimental, yet extremely refined sophomore album can be filed in the thesaurus as the end-all antonym for “sophomore slump.”
“Dragon Spell” presents the album with a very eerie feel. The higher production quality than previous works is immediately evident, and contributes to a sound that is as immense as it is ruthless. With lyrics reverberating Deceiver favorites, long-time fans will have a hard time finding anything to their distaste on “Dragon Spell.” It serves as a fitting intro, seemingly stating “we haven’t forgotten where we came from, but we’re not slowing down.”
“Wishmaster” demonstrates singer Telle Smith’s impressive vocal range, backed by the master of astonishing and stimulating electro-samples. “Entirety” is inarguably driving, as Smith croons “You’re all I have.” It sports one of the few moments when the sound is cut to nearly exclusively percussion and vocals, and the mastery of byzantine guitar-shredding follows. Lacking a resident keyboardist, “Entirety” and Life Cycles boasts even more haunting electric breakdowns than Deceiver.
“For Your Health” is a standout single, tracked with a very airy and atmospheric, well, atmosphere. Clean murmuring blends seamlessly with heart-beating screams, and the tentative vibe doesn’t trip for a moment. Smith proclaims “we are still here,” making it clear that The Word Alive will likely be around a while longer. “Bar Fight” boasts an outlandish tempo, as Smith belts another remarkable lyric: “it’s so simple,” seemingly contradicting each band members’ intricate composition.
The title track is what it is for a reason. The reprising “I’d rather die for what I believe, than live a life without meaning” brings a whole new depth to literally every slice Smith has written, and will write. At first listen, the plethora of style changes can be a bit distracting, but it’s only a matter of time until the listener is anxiously awaiting every variation. A commendable exclamation, “MEANING,” is worthy of shutting down the track.
The next piece, “Evolution,” comes full circle when its interlude and exitludes piece together, encompassing handsome guitar work and layers upon layers of vocal magic, while the instrumentation and breakdown of “Hidden Lakes” alone makes it a keeper. On that note, every single breakdown on Life Cycles is incredibly diverse – a feat in the metalcore genre today. The Word Alive continues to make a name for themselves as being consistently inconsistent. Then, I had no hopes of the band keeping up with the primer sample of “Ambitionary,” but again, what the hell do I know?
A grand piano builds to a rewarding outro in “Live A Lie,” and “Belong” demonstrates each members’ ability to complement the others’ impeccably. The dynamic, at times fairly straightforward, rock verses of “Room 126” precede a culmination I’ve suspected since “We Know Who You Are” last album. That is, if they wanted to, I mean if they really, really wanted to, The Word Alive could likely piece together a concrete album of strictly ballads.
And so it seems that with a sophomore album of polished-unpolished work, The Word Alive has matured exponentially as a band. Unlike some albums fronting the metalcore scene today (read: Attack Attack!’s This Means War), Life Cycles boasts a vast variety of metal. The album in its entirety can be a bit overwhelming upon first listen, just as Deceiver once was, but once the listener becomes familiar with the work, it becomes entirely enjoyable.
They say “money can’t buy you happiness.” But it bought me this album, and that’s pretty damn close.
Go Download: “For Your Health,” “Life Cycles”
My Rating: 4/5
review by Elijah Kampsen