Sound — 8
Don't let this review's introduction throw you off too much. Life Long Tragedy's newest, Runaways, is the kind of album that is far too rare in these days of bloated mosh parts and death metal influenced hardcore. This record is ugly in every sense of the meaning. The guitar tones are thick like black tar. The vocals sounds like death moans while the rhythms plod along one second and the next race along like a frenzied hyena. Every twist and turn is decorated with the sounds of a band losing the plot. The dissonance in the performances is so important to the end result that it almost becomes another member of the band. The compositions are left out to breathe, albeit from blackened lungs, and the uncluttered instrumentation ends up working perfectly for the material. Even though the dense guitars peer down like glaciers, they somehow have a majestic quality about them. How this ended up happening is really beyond me but the closest thing I could compare it to would be the feel that Neurosis mastered on their mid-90's releases. RJ Phillips and Jeremy Gallegos' guitars are like monoliths hovering over songs like Andromeda while on the faster paced, Harm they march along in a more traditional hardcore fashion.
Lyrics — 9
Not to mess with the music's downtrodden feel, Scott Phillips' lyrics paint pictures of isolation, disgust and complete and utter hopelessness. His unwillingness to see the Brightside in any of these particular stories is often just as extreme as the music he's screaming over. These songs are like a cleansing for the frontman, an exorcism of sorts. Standout lines like, Hey death, I'm a f--king mess / Can you stop this beating in my chest, from Hey Death, are found all over the album. His cheerless verses make Chuck Palahniuk's work seem downright peppy! But the award for the most depressing lyrics go to Ignoring Lessons which contains the winner, the only thing I've been counting on for far too long are curtains closing, overdosing on lost momentum. It is difficult to picture a better setting for Phillips' agonized diatribes than the backdrop LLT provides here. It's a marriage made in hell and we're all invited to the wedding!
Overall Impression — 8
Runaways is such a powerful statement that it almost seems unfair to compare other recent hardcore/punk albums in its light. With the exception of Modern Life Is War's latest full length, I am hard-pressed to think of another recent album with the ferocity and scope that Life Long Tragedy have presented us with. Shades of Unbroken, Eyehategod and Intergrity's influence are evident throughout the songs but somehow LLT make something all-together new out of it. Normally I would have wished to see some element of melody melded into the songwriting but it really is a mute point here. What would the point have been really? Songs these menacing wouldn't have benefited from any hint of harmony. The always dependable J. Bannon (frontman of Converge and owner of Deathwish Inc.) comes through again with eye-catching visuals that finely capture the mood of the record. Credit should also go out to engineer Roget Tschann whose warm, beefed up tones let the guitars and bass shine out amongst the mayhem. I'm not exactly certain but it sounds like the tracking was done in analog. I really wish more bands of this style would get away from the Pro-Tool perfected yet often sterile results digital recording leaves us with. All in all, Runaways has left me with a feeling of uneasiness and dejection. For a hardcore/band to evoke such extreme feelings in a jaded writer as myself, they must be doing something unique. So if you're looking for rad mosh parts or Suffocation-aping vocals, look somewhere else. But if you want to get into the psyche of a band sinking into the abyss, Life Long Tragedy have provided the soundtrack.