If you thought the world of post-hardcore had devolved into mindless chug breakdowns and uninspiring vocals, you may be half right. But you also haven’t heard of The Word Alive, a Phoenix-based sextet that brings innovation and technical prowess a la Avenged Sevenfold together with original songwriting that is at once intense and melodic. The Word Alive is set to release its debut full-length, Deceiver, on August 31, and the album is non-stop brilliance. You can pre-order the album here; The Word Alive downloads are right here.
The first song on Deceiver is the album’s first single, “The Hounds of Anubis,” and there could not be a better track to kick things off. The track explodes with intense, driving percussion and passionate screaming that eventually share the airwaves with melodic shredding. The Word Alive backs off just enough to deliver a catchy chorus, which offer a positive message (uncommon for this scene): “Don’t abandon what we started, because I believe in you, in fighting for whatever I have to.” A brief, bluesy riff follows the chorus before machine-gun drumming and screaming re-enter, showing that The Word Alive thought out every second of this addictively catchy track. Guitar players will appreciate the excellent solo section featuring tasteful tapping and shredding. In addition to being one of the top tracks on this album, this may be one of the best songs in post-hardcore today.
“Epiphany” follows with a lightning-quick riff, and the guitar assault doesn’t stop, with shredding scattered through the verses. Seemingly in order to emphasize the point, The Word Alive issues an epic breakdown after a few lines of brutal honesty: “You run from everything you can’t control. Let go of control.” The song also features a calmer melodic section that provides contrast to the fierce, frenzied instrumentation and vocals through the rest of “Epiphany.” This song proves that you never know what’s coming next with The Word Alive, but chances are, you’re going to love it.
“The Wretched” flows right out of “Epiphany” and brings with it heavy guitars and tight double bass drum. The deep questions burn just as intensely as the instrumentation, with lines such as “What were you searching for when you stabbed me in the back? What were you lying for when we gave you all you had?” Again, The Word Alive manages to deliver a catchy, shout-along chorus that adds to the replay value of this track.
The Word Alive shows some versatility and additional guitar chops with “Consider It Mutual,” which begins with clean, jazzy guitar riffing and soulful sung lyrics. Guitarists Zack Hansen and Tony Pizzuti managed to drop back into shred mode with no trouble though, and the band gradually ratchets up the intensity with the help of some relentless drumming and sweeping piano. The track centers around a dramatic breakdown section that transitions into a smooth sung section followed by a final guitar-driven sonic assault.
“2012” begins in foreboding fashion, with intense blasts of guitar and the warning, “You’ll get what you deserve for f*cking with me.” Amid the brutality, The Word Alive drops in a synthesizer riff that is seductively catchy, and despite the randomness, it seems to fit in perfectly. There’s plenty of syncopated, stuttering guitar riffing throughout this dynamic track.
The Word Alive switches things up again, bending the branding of “post-hardcore” dramatically out shape with some clean guitar-picking and passionate but subdued singing on “Dream Catcher.” The track then bursts into a heavier chorus, followed by a frantic-sounding breakdown that makes it hard to believe that the introduction was just two minutes prior. However, everything flows together perfectly, including the twangy solo and intense closing breakdown.
“Like Father Like Son” is an extremely personal song, which vocalist Tyler “Telle” Smith revealed is the song of which he is most proud. Cascading riffs and pulsing rhythm provide the roller coaster of emotion portrayed in the lyrics, which Smith said “includes bottled up things I’ve held in for years.” While the instrumentation is forceful, Smith’s lyrics are even more passionate, with lines such as, “I’m sorry for all the times I’ve made you sad, I just want you to know that…do you have regrets? Do you ever look back?” While The Word Alive can be menacing at times, this song has a touching message, as Smith speaks of wanting “to be a man who could make you proud.”
The next song, “Battle Royale,” proves to be every bit as intense as the title suggests, with a brutal breakdown occurring within the first minute, complete with pinch harmonics and devastating down-tuned guitar riffing. The track doesn’t get too heavy though, as the chorus rises up and soars, although the breakdown comes back for vengeance later on in the song.
“You’re All I See” shows off The Word Alive’s range, as it’s a quieter, emotionally brooding track that offers vulnerable, personal vocals. Unlike the other tracks on the album, this song is entirely sung, with no screams. “Did you mean anything? Can’t you see you’re my everything?” Smith sings, and the emotion in his voice is palpable. This is a significant departure from The Word Alive’s usual music, but it’s a great song that showcases a different side of the band’s talent.
The final track, “We Know Who You Are,” acts as the knockout punch in this sonic onslaught of epic proportions, with the screamed vocals kicking back in alongside sharp riffing and heavy rhythm. “Why am I the only one who knows exactly who you are?” Smith ask before issuing a positively heavy metal growl over relentless riffing. The track quiets down for a brief section that builds momentum as Smith warns, “This time your lies won’t get you far – we know who you are.” The Word Alive drops in a final chorus before ending the song on a quiet, but menacing note with haunting orchestral strings closing out the album.
Deceiver doesn’t seem at all to be a debut. The album finds The Word Alive functioning as a cohesive unit, displaying chemistry that seems as though it must have taken decades to forge. The band shows innovation and originality, without straying too far into wild experiments that sacrifice listening pleasure. While technically challenging, The Word Alive’s music is also catchy and extremely fun to listen to. I would tell you to expect bigger things in the future from this band, but Deceiver proves The Word Alive is already doing it up big. You can pre-order Deceiver here; The Word Alive downloads are right here.