The Word Alive

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Over the past couple of years, The Word Alive has gained a global reputation for pushing the boundaries within their genre. But with new sophomore full-length Life Cycles, the Arizona quintet is set to join an elite club of heavy music luminaries ushering in the next evolution of melodic metal.

Following the success of debut album Deceiver, a non-stop two years on the road and a lineup change, the retooled The Word Alive re-emerged this year determined to craft their most accomplished work to date. Many intense, shred-filled hours later, the band made an album that captures the essence of The Word Alive sound, while fully realizing the potential that was prevalent on prior recordings.

“I think Life Cycles destroys Deceiver, honestly,” says singer Tyler “Telle” Smith. “Everything from the guitar work, to the drum work, to the bass lines… just all those aspects are brought out times 10 on this record, and the vocals show the biggest range I’ve ever had, both singing and screaming. We’ve looked at bands like Underoath, The Used and Thursday; all bands that have had long careers, and have done things that changed music within the genre. I think this album is the first that will make that happen for us.”

The Word Alive—which also includes guitarists Zack Hansen and Tony Pizzuti, bassist Daniel Shapiro and recently added drummer Luke Holland— formed in November 2008. After signing with Fearless Records, in 2009 the group released the EP Empire, which reached #15 on Billboard’s “Heatseekers” chart, quickly winning over listeners with its scorching musicianship and hyperkinetic vocals, setting the stage for an even deeper, more innovative full-length: 2010’s Deceiver. Building upon everything fans had come to love about the band, Deceiver reached #97 on the Billboard 200. The Word Alive toured incessantly behind the release, including runs with A Day To Remember, two European tours as well as a full summer run on the 2011 Vans Warped Tour.

Seeking to continue their evolution, the group opted to change its production approach for Life Cycles, and enlisted red-hot metal helmsman Joey Sturgis (The Devil Wears Prada, Emmure, Asking Alexandria) to man the boards for Life Cycles’ blistering instrument tracks, after cutting their last two releases with Andrew Wade (A Day To Remember, VersaEmerge). Sequestered in Connersville, Ind. at Sturgis’ Foundation Recording Studio, the band pushed themselves to a new level of musical complexity and composition, while Smith painstakingly worked on vocals separately in California with Allan Hessler (Story of the Year, The Used, Avenged Sevenfold).The result is a record that combines the unique strengths of both producers.

“We wanted to be uncomfortable, to be pushed in a new way, to have someone who didn’t really know what our talent level was or what they could get out of us, push us for something much bigger than that,” reflects Smith. “When it comes to the full sound and understanding what’s going on with the guitars and the mix, Joey has a strong grasp on what is good for our band, for sure. With Allan, he’s been a part of records for many great bands who all have distinguished, unique voices, and he pushed me to have a character to my voice that I’ve never had before. The combination [of producers] is really awesome.”

There’s also considerable substance to back up the sonic sheen. Thematically, Life Cycles contains some of the band’s darkest material to date, as well as some of their most positive; in a broad sense the album revolves around various portraits of peoples’ lives at different stages of existence, forming a kind of aural tapestry encapsulating the human experience. From powerful lead track “Entirety”, to the rabble-rousing, determined title track, youth, maturity, love and ultimately, death, are all aspects of the journey that influence the topical choices within Life Cycles.

“It’s kind of about different aspects of people’s lives. At times the songs reference each other in different ways, so you get that theme feeling toward the end of the record,” says Smith. “As a whole, it’s about the different areas of people’s lives—when they’re struggling, when everything’s going great, when you’re questioning yourself, when you’re questioning what you’re doing with your life in general. It asks a lot of big questions about what our purpose is in this world, and where we go when we die.”

The subject of mortality and the hereafter takes on an especially intimate degree of significance for Smith, who penned “Hidden Lakes” about his late grandfather. “That song is about our relationship, and me hoping that I’m making him proud,” says Smith. “He never got to see anything I’ve done or accomplished, and it’s just me letting him know that he’ll never be forgotten. What I think a lot of people go through when someone dies, they just kind of hope they’re watching over them in some way, shape, or form. Whether or not that’s true, you ultimately feel that way: You hope they’re in a good place.”

The Word Alive also take a track to acknowledge some true heroes—America’s Armed Forces—with the bombastic cut “Wishmaster.” Many of us know someone personally who is risking their life each day to defend the nation, and the song both honors that service and sacrifice, while also acknowledging the remarkable spirit of those who bravely answer the call.

“We’ve met some great people in the Armed Forces, and some of us have had people in our family serve, like me and Zack. That song is an anthem for the people who protect us,” explains Smith. “With all the tabloid headlines nowadays, it’s never about them—it’s only about the bad things. So this is a thank you, because there are people who are watching and appreciating. It’s about them saying, ‘We’re not here to get praise; we’re here to try and make the world a better place, to save people when all else has failed, when there’s no hope left.’”

Now, it’s time to take these inspired words, and this masterful music, to the masses. After spending late 2011/early 2012 writing and recording, The Word Alive are now eager to hit the road in support of Life Cycles, which drops July 3. The band recently wrapped up the “This World Is Ours Tour” with Escape The Fate and Attack Attack!, then skipped over to Western Europe for several weeks of dates. The quintet are set for a full summer on The All-Stars Tour with Suicide Silence, and a return to Europe in the fall, as well as more U.S. dates. From the recording studio to the live stage, right now The Word Alive are all about taking giant steps forward.

“We’ve been a band for four years, we’ve worked really hard, gone through the lowest of lows both as a band and as individuals, and we’ve made it this far,” says Smith. “I think this record shows how hard we’ve worked, and hopefully it pays off and this can be the record that cements us as one of the strongest and definitely most deserving bands at the top of the genre. That’s our hope. We want to be one of those bands that has a career…that does something people remember.”

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