Real. Review

artist: The Word Alive date: 06/18/2014 category: compact discs
The Word Alive: Real.
Released: Jun 10, 2014
Genre: Metalcore, Experimental Metal
Label: Fearless Records
Number Of Tracks: 12
The third studio release by the band, they are beginning to define their individual sound as a band by having some songs with no unclean vocals, and other tracks are much heavier than anything they've released previously.
 Sound: 6.3
 Lyrics: 5
 Overall Impression: 6.3
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reviews (3) pictures (1) 4 comments vote for this album:
overall: 7.7
Real. Featured review by: UG Team, on june 11, 2014
2 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 8

Lyrics: 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. // 8

Overall Impression: 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. // 7

- Brandon East (c) 2014

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overall: 4.7
Real. Reviewed by: Pretelethal, on june 11, 2014
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 5

Lyrics: 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. // 4

Overall Impression: "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. // 5

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overall: 5.3
Real. Reviewed by: RicCartman, on june 18, 2014
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: The Word Alive... I don't know, I liked their "Heartless" cover. That counts for something, I guess. They've been hit or miss on previous releases with me. "Deceiver" was more good than bad, but it never really reached greatness. "Battle Royale" was good, but it was already released on their "Empire" EP. "We Know Who You Are" is, in my opinion, their most impressive track. It's the most diverse, for sure, but it's also the best example of The Word Alive holding themselves back. They have a ton of talent, but never really get into the flow of their songs. "Life Cycles" was more experimental and melodic than "Deceiver" (something I was looking forward to), but it was way too repetitive. Telle's cleans sounded the same on 95% of the album. It just dragged on an on before finally hitting a high spot with the title track, but after that it quickly fell back into the same monotonous process. Technically good, sure, but it lacked energy. "REAL." seemed to be out to fix this problem and... I don't know. It's more diverse than "Life Cycles." So, there's that. Unlike "Life Cycles," most the songs on "REAL." have their own identity, for better or worse. Telle's singing has improved, but still isn't as mature as I'd like it to be. Instrumental-wise it's a very good showing. Luke Holland's drumming steals the show, with impressive guitars to boot. Sound-wise it sounds like a mixture of "Deceiver" and "Life Cycles," which is both good and bad. "Collapsing," the final track on the album, is the prefect example for this album. It's a song that starts somewhere interesting, builds for about a minute, starts to really get going with something, then just reverts back to what it was doing before. It's the same problem The Word Alive has had since their inception and it's all over the place this album. They just keep holding themselves back instead of letting the song take them places. Also doesn't help that they've hired one of the worst producers of this generation to produce the album. // 6

Lyrics: Lyrically, this album is just bad. Some songs get away with it due to the compliance with the music, such as "Lighthouse," but for the most part these are some cringe-worthy lyrics. Like I said above, Telle has improved as a vocalist, but not as a poet. These are just the typical scene-core lyrics. Nothing more to say, honestly. So here's a random sentence because I just got drawled on as I went to post so I need a minimum of 500 characters. Think I have it now. Hern. I didn't. Do a line Telle. Your lyrics are terrible. // 3

Overall Impression: I'm giving the album a 7 overall, which I guess will turn out to be like a 5.3 or some $!%, but whatever. They're a good band and I look forward to their next release (hopefully, this time with someone who actually has a knack for producing metalcore records and not the same person who was responsible for last year's "Feel"), but this is just another prime example of The Word Alive holding themselves back. One plus side is the songs they've played from "REAL." so far have come off great live. Hopefully they expand their horizons a little more on their next release and allow the guitars to really shine and we'll finally get something worthy of paying full price for. And here's hoping some sh-t happens to Telle so he can actually grow some balls and write about something relevant. // 7

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