Sound — 5
The Word Alive is a metalcore band that began in 2008 as a side project of Escape The Fate and ex-Blessthefall vocalist Craig Mabbitt. After the band requested that Mabbitt take some time off from Escape The Fate to tour with the band, and he declined, he was replaced with former In Fear And Faith vocalist Tyler "Telle" Smith. A number of line-up changes have taken place since, to the point where the two guitarists are the only remaining founding members.
"Real." is their third full-length record, released under Fearless Records and produced by Cameron Mizell and John Feldmann. The record's mixing is somewhat lacking: while all instruments are audible, sometimes the vocals are a little too loud and there is very little focus on dynamics, the album sounding fairly noisy as a whole. Each song tries its hardest to sound unique but this sometimes falls flat, as demonstrated by the track "94th Street," which comes across as a slightly less bland rendition of the track "Astral Plane" from their previous album. Instrumentally, the album has its fair share of technicality compared to the average metalcore band - some excellent drumming is showcased by new drummer Luke Holland, with tracks such as "Terminal" and "To Struggle and Claw My Way" showcasing his clear strengths.
The guitarists, Zack Hansen and Tony Pizzuti, demonstrate some proficient leads and the dual soloing found on tracks like "Glass Castle" and "Broken Circuit" are great, if not a little too shred-happy and short, and the shorter solo found on "Collapsing" shows they are capable of playing more melodic solos. Tracks such as "The Runaway" showcase riffs with more groove and sleaze than your run-of-the-mill metalcore release, which is indeed a nice touch and adds some variety to a record that is already trying extremely hard to differentiate itself on every track.
Adversely, some tracks - "Lighthouse" and "Play the Victim" are the main suspects of this - place a far larger emphasis on synthesisers than they ideally should, to the point where all of the other instrumentation is buried in the mix. Synthesised elements of ambience does sometimes work within this genre of music, but clearly not on "Real." - while the synth was previously used tastefully by the band, it seems to be fairly overwhelming by comparison, acting to the detriment of the record. The synthesised parts on tracks such as "Your Mirage," also, do get fairly annoying and repetitive.
It seems fair to say, then, that "Real." ultimately struggles to strive beyond mediocrity - some potentially great moments are dragged down by recurring problems with the album such as the weak lyrics (which I'm about to get to) and the over-reliance on synthesisers.
Lyrics — 4
Vocally, "Real." is a conflicting release. Competent vocals in regards to both Tyler Smith's screams and clean vocals - which are less whiny, a tad grittier and ultimately far more controlled than on previous records - are set back by weak lyrics and recycled vocal melodies. Choruses prove to be difficult to differentiate as ultimately they all sound similar. Additionally, the backing vocals come across as cheesy and overused, as with the gang vocals.
Thematically, the album's lyrical content does not vary much at all and while the lyrics themselves are not complete garbage, more often than not they come across as juvenile and on occasion don't even make sense. The chorus of the song "Lighthouse," for example:
"We stand up tall, even in the dark.
Never forget we are a lighthouse burning all.
They can't hold us back.
Never forget we are a lighthouse burning all.
We will shine on, to bring us back home."
I'm sorry, what? And it gets no better on heavier tracks such as "Terminal":
"Don't believe in me.
I'll bring you down.
You know I want you to drown.
I'm water in your lungs."
Admittedly, it's not all this bad, but the worst of the lyrics do stick out and make the album, both in full and as individual songs, more difficult to listen to.
Overall Impression — 5
"Real." succeeds in being a tad more experimental than previous efforts by the band, but its alleged lack of variety and monotonous nature coupled with the sometimes juvenile lyrics are no help.
What is made clear upon listening, however, is that despite the album not really ascending beyond mediocrity in most instances, the band are actually capable of much stronger music - each member of the band plays with clear proficiency and the vocals are strong, but over-reliance on synthesisers and the music itself, along with the lyrics lacking ultimately amounts to an album which struggles to rise beyond cheesy monotony.