As I prepare to review this album, and start doing a little bit of research, I discover that The Word Alive have only been together 10 years. One decade. They’ve been together less time than I have been with my wife. There have been a few line-up changes and 4 full length albums. Not bad for a decade!
Founded in Phoenix, Arizona in 2008 by then Blessthefall vocalist Craig Mabbitt, The Word Alive strutted their stuff on their opening two releases; an EP ‘Empire’ and debut full length ‘Deceiver’. Oddly, neither release had anything to do with Mabbit. He was forced to leave by the other band members after his work with his new band, Escape the Fate, had taken over his life and required him to be a full time member. I can’t think of another example of a band being founded by someone who then doesn’t appear on their first release!
The Word Alive, 2018 edition, consists of frontman Tyler “Telle” Smith, guitarists Zack Hansen and Tony Pizzuti, bassist Ryan Daminson and drummer Matt Horn. This line-up has only been in place since 2015, as they chopped and changed their way through drummers and bassists during the first 7 years of the bands existence, meaning this is the first album released by this line up.
Let’s quickly jump back to their first 2 releases, which frankly shook the Metalcore world in 2009 and 2010. The Word Alive were a heavier brand of Keyboard driven Metalcore than had been around previously and this was evident on these releases, but it was still instantly memorable, with huge hooks and chugging guitars producing swirling pits at their shows. ‘Empire’ was one hell of an introduction and ‘Deceiver’ an outstanding follow up.
Jump forward to 2018, and new album “Violent Noise” shows a marked change in style that they’ve arrived at through two other albums (2012’s ‘Life Cycles’ and 2014’s ‘Real’). They’ve gone through a change very similar to Of Mice & Men between “The Flood” and “Cold World”. The heaviness has been reigned in (but is still subtly there) and the radio friendly tunes have come to the front. That shouldn’t take away from the album at all; you just have to listen to it for what it is. It’s evolution, not revolution, and if you were a fan of what the band did on previous album ‘Dark Matter’ then you’re in for a treat, albeit a pretty predictable one, but if you’re all about ‘Empire’ and ‘Deceiver’…Well, read on…
Opener ‘Red Clouds’ is also the first song released from the album, and sets the tone very well for the rest of it. It’s got more a Linkin Park vibe to it than anything else, a real Nu-metal feel, mixed in with variants of what we have come to know as modern Metalcore. Smith is clearly a talented frontman, effortlessly moving between his screams and clean vocals. The guitar work is very straight line and predominantly chord driven, drums and bass provide a grisly sounding undercurrent to the song. It gets heavier around 2:40, but not overbearingly.
‘Why Am I like this’ is a single in waiting. Huge hooks, completely sung vocals that really test Smith’s vocal range and again very chord driven. It’s more post hardcore than it is Metalcore. It’s certainly different.
‘Stare at the Sun’ features a guest from Asking Alexandria frontman Danny Worsnop. A belter of a riff fires us in to the heaviest track so far. Again, it’s very Nu-metal, but there is a real edge to this track. Like the Metalcore was desperate to breakout but it never did. This is highlighted by the middle part of the track, which is screamed, but returns to the very catchy chorus promptly afterwards.
I’ll bet my mortgage on ‘I Fucked Up’ being the next single from this album (albeit with an altered title and chorus line). It’s a bounce along song, more upbeat in tempo than the 3 previous tracks with an emotive chorus (“This is for every time that I fucked up, didn’t believe I was enough…”).
‘War Evermore’, ‘Human’ (featuring Rap/Hip Hop artist Sincerely Collins) and ‘I Don’t Mind’ all move the album along, the latter arguably being a pop punk song.
It is NOW I realise I have a problem.
I remembered back to my first listen I hadn’t been able to pick my way through the songs. They’d all merged in to one. They all sounded the same. I’d looked down and found myself 8 songs in! As of yet, I hadn’t found a stand out track. I’ll admit, once I had realised this, it became a different album to me. The Word Alive haven’t evolved to reach this point, they’re still evolving.
‘Real Life’ was the song I was listening to at this moment. And I realised it was just another song. Nothing different to the previous songs. ‘My Enemy’ then becomes the heaviest track on offer, before ‘Run Away’ bounds in with its big sing along melody. Album closer ‘Lonely’ in many ways sums it all up. Relatively mid tempo and unfortunately lacking any true inspirational moments, save for the once again solid vocal delivery from Smith.
I am and always have been a firm believer that bands cannot just stand still and continually release the same thing time and time again. They have to offer up something different to show that they’re capable of evolving as musicians, as people and with the times. Everything about music now is very different to how it was 10 years ago and in 10 years’ time, that statement will also remain true.
The trouble with this is that The Word Alive have evolved in to something that was pertinent nearly 20 years ago. We’re back at the start of the cycle again, and I don’t think the world is quite ready for that cycle to start again just yet. I might listen back to this album in a few years and mark it as one I “just didn’t get at the time”. In that event I will hold my hands up and admit I got it wrong.
Turns out evolution takes longer than a decade after all…
The Word Alive – Violent Noise Track list:
Why Am I Like This?
Stare at the Sun (Featuring Danny Worsnop)
I Fucked Up
Human (featuring Sincerely Collins)
I Don’t Mind
Lost in the Dark