Sound — 8
The Word Alive formed in 2008, originally with Craig Mabbit of Escape The Fate as the front-man, though he was very quickly replaced by Telle Smith due to Mabbit's complicated schedule which prevented the band from touring. After adding Telle Smith to the band they quickly began playing live and touring and soon released their first album. "REAL." is the band's third studio album, and the first to include drummer, Luke Holland. The album contains twelve tracks, clocks in at forty-five minutes and is being released by Fearless Records. The album is preceded by 3 separate singles, the lead single "Play the Victim," which was released in March 2014, "Broken Circuit" which was released in May 2014, and finally "Glass Castle" which was released on June 5th.
The album opens up with the lead single, "Play the Victim," which sounds pretty standard for the metalcore genre, except for a prominent bass in the mix and a more interesting guitar interplay than a lot of the band's earlier material. The second track from the album is "Never Forget," which has a neat little melody in the intro but from there the track stays pretty aggressive throughout, but with a very instrumentally and vocally melodic chorus. "Broken Circuit" comes across seriously intense and maintains that intensity for the entirety of the track, even during the cleaner portions of the track (i.e. the chorus). "Lighthouse" is very much a kind of happy ballad, very major key silver-lining type of a song. "The Fortune Teller" has an epic feeling to the intro and it grows into a seriously catchy song from there - definitely one of the catchiest songs from the album. "Glass Castle," which was also the third single from the album, and honestly the guitar solo on this one won me over. Very melodic and the kind of solo you can kind of sing along with. "94th St." is a sad song with some fairly good synth instruments thrown in there. This is another one where I'm really digging the melodic guitar parts. "You Mirage" is one of the tracks on the song that really seems to get into the realm of being metalcore cliché, unfortunately, because at moments in the track it seems like they are going to take the song somewhere really interesting but it never actually happens. "Terminal" is a nice heavy track that has a lot of vibe going on with it, and some nice twisty guitar parts. "The Runaway" has an interesting intro but moves from there into what almost feels a little bit like pop-punk to me. "To Struggle and Claw My Way" is one of the heaviest tracks on the album, and easily my personal favorite. The album closes out with the track "Collapsing," which is a relatively quieter track than most of the album, with a kind of epic "Top Gun" feel to it. I kind of imagine Tom Cruise in an aerial dogfight yelling at "Goose" the entire time. There is some seriously good lead guitar work on this track.
Lyrics — 8
Tyler "Telle" Smith provides the lead vocals on the album, but both Zach Hansen and Tony Pizzuti provide backing vocals which are an integral part of The Word Alive's sound. Both the unclean and the clean vocals seem to have taken a step up on this release. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some lyrics from the single, "Broken Circuit": "why the f--k did you think I'd just take it/ all the things you said to break me, I faked it/ all I have to say/ I don't know you and you don't know what I've been through/ not enough they always told me/ I'm no one, I never will be/ they were wrong/ don't ever listen/ they are wrong/ when everyone thinks you've had enough/ it's your turn, you can't give in/ just remember to shout I won't give up/ I won't give up/ did you think I'd just lay down and die/ my rule's an eye for an eye/ I can't believe you thought I'd listen to you/ I've made mistakes but I'm no fool." Pretty decent lyrics, really.
Overall Impression — 7
What do I like about the album? A lot of the twisty little guitar licks that are really one of the high points of good metalcore music. The fact that the bass guitar is oftentimes prominent and discernible on the track. Guitar solos. The album seems to mostly be mixed just the right kind of way. What do I dislike about the album? I don't always like the way the double bass pedal is being utilized. Sometimes the band starts sounding a little bit like metalcore cliché. At the end of the day, The Word Alive was more successful at sounding genuine than metalcore bands usually are. My favorite tracks from the album are "Broken Circuit" and "To Struggle and Claw My Way" for their heaviness, and "Collapsing" and "Glass Castle" for the lead guitar work. This may be my favorite metalcore release so far in 2014. I would have to go back and look at the releases from this year to be sure, but if nothing else this is a solid metalcore album.