People finally seem to be clocking on to metalcore’s current state of saturation, given how genuinely exciting acts like Of Mice & Men and Issues are excelling, while copy-and-paste pretenders find themselves falling behind. The Word Alive tend to be fairly unfortunate in this respect; they’ve often attempted to spice up a tired sound with their own flair, but have often had their work unnoticed. In hindsight though, an explanation is there, especially with last album Real., an album that saw their attempt at progression scuppered when the end result was an overall dull, flabby body of work. It’s a good thing they didn’t let that put them off though, as fourth album Dark Matter is, by a considerable degree, the best thing they’ve ever released.
From the off, Dark Matter sees The Word Alive going down a different route than before, one in which typical metalcore tropes are used naturally rather than stylistically, and where melodic, anthemic qualities play a much bigger role. It really feels as though Dark Matter is The Word Alive’s Sempiternal – expansive and polished to a mirror-like sheen, but fully willing to let loose when needed. This is perfectly typified by Sellout, which sets Telle Smith’s piercing, venom-flecked screeches over a heavily melodic riff, a far more attractive prospect than the usual vapid metalcore posturing. And while Made This Way does pay homage to these old tricks in its glitchy breakdown, it’s a weak moment that’s outnumbered by pretty much everything else on offer.
Very little of Dark Matter even comes close to being branded with the same derivative tag The Word Alive were once burdened with. Metalcore is now more of an accoutrement than the main dish on offer, instead switched out for powering, arena-class rock. Dark Matter also sees The Word Alive venturing into relatively unexplored territory for them and coming out all the stronger – the all-encompassing alt-rock rumble of Trapped; the soaring, clean verses on Face To Face and Insane; the melodrama imbued in Black Parade-era My Chemical Romance on Piece Of Me; these mightn’t be entirely new concepts in their own right, but The Word Alive give them a coat of their own paint for something interesting that pertains exclusively to them.
If anything can be gleaned from Dark Matter, it’s that The Word Alive are far better off being a thoroughly modern, straight-up rock band than a metalcore band. As a whole body of work, this launches them from low-tier also-rans to a position where they’re dangerously close to catching up to such giants in this field as Hands Like Houses or Emarosa. Because in terms of actual songs, Dark Matter is bursting with some positively colossal examples of this sort of thing done right. Dreamer and the stormy Branded gallop forward with some searing guitar work and a sleek coat of synths, while the low-slung Grunge erupts with potency and fury.
All of that comes together to make a brilliant album, and not just ‘for this band’ either – Dark Matter is a genuinely great album in its own right, and sees The Word Alive outdoing themselves in truly spectacular fashion. If Real. was them dipping their toes in the water of something different and emerging with less than stellar results, Dark Matter sees them taking the plunge and being all the stronger for it. And most importantly, it should be enough to dissuade anyone from writing this band off again.
For fans of: Bring Me The Horizon, Hands Like Houses, The Color Morale
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Dark Matter’ by The Word Alive is out now on Fearless Records.