On their third full-length, Phoenix metalcore veterans The Word Alive perfect the sound they’ve crafted since their formation in 2008. The first track “Play the Victim” captures the album’s many strengths: heavy rhythms, tasty riffs, well-crafted arrangements, and the soaring vocals of Tyler “Telle” Smith. Other standouts include “Never Forget” and “Glass Castle,” which both underscore the strength of the songwriting on the album.
In the early stages of their career, the Word Alive felt like an anomaly with their mix of metalcore and EDM influences. As they've matured, they've managed to more elegantly blend their contrasting sounds, a change that makes their third album, Real, the band's most refined effort to date. A successor to the heavier sound the band laid down on their sophomore album, Life Cycles, the album finds the bandmembers getting better acquainted with the tools at their disposal and how to use them for maximum impact.
It takes serious swagger to be a modern metalcore/post-hardcore band who drop a record called REAL. —a musical shot across the collective bow of fellow contenders and also-rans alike—and Phoenix quintet the Word Alive back up the insinuation with a shock-and-awe barrage of blast beats, blazing guitars and perhaps most crucially, a formidable array of razor-sharp hooks. Sure, the core foundation of Real’s 12 songs is the kind of chugging, scream-grunt-sing fare we’ve heard ad nauseam, but the group push beyond genre limitations through the sheer force of their musicianship and Telle Smith’s caustic and expansive vocals, elevating tracks like “Glass Castle,” “Terminal” and “To Struggle And Claw My Way” beyond the technical reach of most players.