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The Word Alive have done two things on their third record ‘REAL.’ which serve as points of difference. The first, is the level of heaviness that they offer up, easily some of the most brutal moments the band has ever been capable of, no question. The second is their newfound sense of melody, which has always been present in the group’s music, but given more attention this time around. In some ways they have mastered the art of finding melody in screamed vocals, not just relying on the clean.
There are moments however, when these two points are not enough to save parts of this record from a very bland, cliché, regurgitated style of metalcore that you have heard countless times before, hence creating a tug-of-war style argument for the quality of this album.
Opening track ‘Play The Victim’ is a good example of the lower points. Sure it’s a blistering way to open the record, but the clean sung chorus with a break for screams and the string laden bridge is just paint-by-numbers metalcore. ‘Never Forget’ manages to splice together some catchy vocals with bursts of heavy aggression that is pulled together, and completely owned, by new drummer Luke Holland, who offers up a truly impressive performance constantly throughout ‘REAL‘.
‘Light House’ pulls everything right back, landing somewhere between Circa Survive verses and Story of the Year chorus lines. The production from John Feldmann is interestingly quite reserved, but still clearly of great benefit to the direction this group is heading in, swerving them out of the way of standard metalcore oblivion. That being said, it just simply isn’t in fashion anymore due to the heavy hand of his past productions, there are far too many moments where this record sounds exactly like someone else.
‘REAL.‘ shines in its heavier moments, such as ‘Terminal’ (brought back by its clean sung chorus), or the more experimental instrumentation of ‘Collapsing’, once again owned by the percussion. Things end on ‘Pull Us Out of the Grave’, the album’s most aggressive track that probably should have been used as the opener.
There are elements in ‘REAL.’ that are new and exciting within the world of The Word Alive, but that world is held down by the giant hand of the metalcore genre, which is starting to sound like more and more of the same with each new release.
1. Play the Victim
2. Never Forget
3. Broken Circuit
5. The Fortune Teller
6. Glass Castle
7. 94th St.
8. Your Mirage
10. The Runaway
11. To Struggle And Claw My Way