Life Cycles was literally JUST released in the past few months. Like I always say in reviews of sophomore albums, it’s the sophomore release that helps determine a band’s success. Not only does it help prove the bands ability to write and perfect music in less than two years, it also proves to the public that the debut release wasn’t just a huge fluke. There are plenty of bands that go all out and release something better than their debut like Whitechapel, Nile, Darkthrone, Lord Belial, and Augury. I mentioned in my review of The Word Alive’s first album that they might have set the bar too high with that record. And it turns out that they did set the bar too high to live up to with the follow-up album. But then again, Life Cycles has a COMPLETELY different sound than Deceiver. It’s almost like a whole different band.
So apparently the band’s goal with this album wasn’t to build on top of the sound of Deceiver and make something better. The focus was basically to create their own sound…which ended up sounding NOTHING like Deceiver. I’ve checked again and again to see if there’s a new vocalist, but it’s still the same guy! He’s taken the sparingly-used mid-range growls from the first record and made it almost the only thing he does. Hell, even the singing sounds 100% different. I can’t hear any similarities between these two records, so I’m not going to spend any time trying to make comparisons because that would just be fucking pointless. It’s like trying to compare oranges with jellyfish; there’s just NOTHING that they have in common.
One thing that I will point out as a possibility for the reason of their decrease in quality is that they got a new drummer. If you don’t remember my review of deceiver, the drummer was the BEST musician on the album due to his inconceivable complexity, creativity, speed, and technicality. I don’t hear as much complexity in the drumming on this album, which is obviously because this drummer isn’t as good as the previous one. This drummer is much more violent with his set; you can tell just by listening that he’s pounding the SHIT out of the snare and the china. He doesn’t have as much variety in volume and dynamics; he just knows how to play loud, very loud, and “there goes the drum set” loud.
As far as song structure goes, there is a considerably larger number of breakdowns in their music, less keyboards, but more electronic effects on the vocals and guitars (no, not auto-tune, chill out). When I noticed this increase in breakdowns, I was petrified with fear that The Word Alive had joined the infamous trend of simple breakdown after simple breakdown with not much else. Fortunately, the band pulls these breakdowns off with care and make sure to keep throwing in something different in each one to kill any notion of repetitiveness. The instruments don’t all blend together as one like they did in Deceiver, so I can hear each member individually with ease, which makes it much easier for reviewing purposes. The breakdowns are not all in a row, and they’re not all simple. The Word Alive makes sure to keep the breakdowns in the icing and not in the cake (in most of the songs). But in some of the songs, they just couldn’t help themselves; which is understandable because those songs sound fucking epic and leave my neck throbbing with soreness.
If you’re looking for “Deceiver Part-2”, you might as well say goodbye to The Word Alive because, unfortunately, they’ve chosen to take on a different direction. For those of you that are more tolerant of change, Life Cycles gives the listener a completely different feel and portrays a whole new sound for those familiar with Deceiver. With a much darker, slower, and atmospheric sound, Life Cycles gets 17/20. I was right about The Word Alive setting the bar too high, but I was also right when I said that The Word Alive still has yet to disappoint me. Song recommendations? Entirety would be the most colorful, melodic, and emotional track on the album. Although I feel that Dragon Spell should be your first impression.