No one really could’ve predicted what The Word Alive would bring to the table with Dark Matter. Previously, they’d been one of the better bands in the metalcore flood of the early 2010s though still nothing all that special, but their 2016 release brought a newfound maturity and reliance on melody that made for such an ear-catching combination, and one of the best metalcore albums of that year. Put simply, it’s no wonder so many bands took to that style in the following couple of years, and it’s even less of one that none managed to best The Word Alive’s original groundwork. But recently, it hasn’t looked as though The Word Alive have been in the best position to capitalise on Dark Matter’s success. A rather understated run-up to this album notwithstanding, the band has since lost not only bassist Daniel Shapiro but also drummer Luke Holland, who many saw as the integral backbone to this band. As such, the turbulence surrounding Violent Noise has been a real spot of contention, with all signs pointing to the notion that The Word Alive would be unable to continue their hot streak.
Thankfully that’s not the case, and Violent Noise is a perfectly worthy follow-up to Dark Matter, taking what made that album excellent and verging on something a bit more unconventional. This isn’t The Word Alive’s prog opus by any means though; pop hooks and melody are still tightly woven in its DNA, as well as taking the typical metalcore gloss but using it beneficially to accentuate the alt-rock scale, rather than just slathering it over everything for the illusion of grandeur. A couple of weaker cuts mean that it can’t quite match up to its predecessor, but in continuing down the path to make this sort of metalcore exciting, The Word Alive still deserve plenty of commendation.
A big factor of this is The Word Alive’s superb knack for a hook, something that takes the focus off a relatively shallow lyrical pool and combines with their more blustery melodic sensibilities excellently. It gives tracks Why Am I Like This and War Evermore a real leg up in terms of overall impact, particularly with Telle Smith relying on some very earnest, clear clean vocals for the majority of the album. In the same way that Dark Matter was a refreshing change from the usual metalcore banality, Violent Noise works similarly, paring back unnecessary gimmicky and relying on big, blockbuster choruses for the most part. Even when Danny Worsnop joins in to lend some extra teeth to Stare At The Sun, or Sincerely Collins brings a lithe rap verse to Human, the broader sound clicks with these features a lot easier, and thus makes them work better.
It’s worth saying that it doesn’t always benefit though, and this bigger, more epic sound can become a bit tiresome later on when some of these tracks don’t feel like Violent Noise’s creative peak. The closing pair of Run Away and Lonely especially might have the necessary size and brute force on their side, but the spark of something like the synth interplay of Red Clouds or the bounding pop-rock of I Don’t Mind is missing. It’s definitely a little safer than The Word Alive’s last effort, and when this sort of sound relies on what’s added to it for its best moments rather than what it brings on its own, it’s a shame to see a handful of tracks here fall by the wayside as very clear filler.
The majority here definitely works though, and what could’ve easily been The Word Alive stumbling and struggling to regain footing is a steadfast reiteration of what they clearly do best. As much as this type of metalcore is derided and ridiculed for its clear pop influence, it can be done right, and for the second time in a row, The Word Alive have shown how to do that. It’s not even that difficult really – mountainous hooks, an impassioned vocal performance and the knowledge of how to correctly integrate alt-rock strains is really all it takes, and Violent Noise is another example of how effective it can be.
For fans of: Bring Me The Horizon, Asking Alexandria, Hands Like Houses
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Violent Noise’ by The Word Alive is released on 4th May on Fearless Records.