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Hailing from Los Angeles, Alpha & Omega formed in 2007 and have since built a reputation for themselves as purveyors of fine metallic hardcore. Having rocked all the biggest hardcore festivals including Sound & Fury, This Is Hardcore and United Blood, A&O have finally got around to releasing their much anticipated debut full length, "Life Swallower". The album was mixed and mastered by Paul Minor, and as the dude behind albums by H20, Death By Stereo and New Found Glory, A&O were in good hands which is reflected through the quality of this release.
Picking up where 2008’s “Devil’s Bed” EP left off, A&O jump straight into it without a dicky intro. The album kicks off forcefully with the furious “Fuelled by Sin”, the initial riff coming from nowhere to punch you flat in the face. It sets the tone for the rest of the CD, seeping thrashy goodness before transitioning into a catchy-as-all-hell twostep beat which will rip dancefloors apart.
The vocal style will probably divide fans of A&O’s vein of hardcore, employing a mix of tough as shit screams and growls with an element of southern infused melody comparable to that of Eddie Sutton of Leeway (who are obviously an important influence). “Searching” is an obvious strong point of the album, its infectious thrash riff weaving throughout the song before the breakdown which will have hardcore enthusiasts torn between floorpunching and headbanging.
The seventh track “Seven” provides temporary reprieve from the chaos, its rich acoustic melodies making it sound somewhere between the beginning of Metallica’s “Battery” and something from the movie Babel. The strong Metallica influence is most apparent in the album’s namesake track “Life Swallower” which opens a riff that borrows from a bunch of different songs from the ‘big four’ thrash legends (which obviously isn’t a bad thing at all).
The weakest track on the album is arguably “Stand Alone”. The clean vocals in the slower part are reminiscent of mediocre 90s grunge, and while I generally like A&O’s melodic, wailing vocals, here they to some extent ruin an otherwise perfectly good song. The beginning of “Faded Path” even reminded me of the intro of “Fade to Black” (okay I’ll stop with the Metallica comparisons), before erupting into emotional vocals that epitomise the appeal of A&O’s combination of heaviness and melody. Another slow starter, “Cold Reality” tops off the CD with more massive thrash riffs and a final chugging breakdown (not in the trite Reign Supreme sense).
Beyond its somewhat cringe-worthy title and a vocal style which might not appeal to all, "Life Swallower" is an excellent hardcore album which proves Alpha & Omega to be one of contemporary hardcore’s more underrated bands compared to peers like Bitter End and Trapped Under Ice. Amongst a solid group of emerging heavy hardcore acts in recent years, they’ve have developed their own unique sound, which is only confirmed by this release. "Life Swallower" is unquestionably an A-grade release for fans of old school metallic hardcore, providing a masterful balance of awesome thrash riffage with an infectious modern hardcore edge.
1. Fueled By Sin
2. Lead Me Home
3. Worthless Life
5. Losing Grip
6. No One To Blame
8. Life Swallower
9. Faded Path
10. Stand Alone
11. Cold Reality