A 5-year hiatus is a scary proposition for any band and their fans, but in the case of Philly Post-Metalcore crew A Life Once Lost, it’s even more worrisome for a few reasons. The group was seemingly at the peak of its popularity after two grueling years of touring in support of 2007’s Iron Gag when a freak bicycle accident put guitarist Doug Sabolick on the shelf with a shoulder injury for a month. This brought plans to a screeching halt and eventually resulted in three longtime band members jumping ship, leaving only Sabolick and vocalist Bob Meadows to forge on. So, here’s a band that’s been known to mutate a time or two —beginning as a more straightforward Metalcore unit that would use a strong Meshuggah influence to morph into something far more listenable than the Math Metal of their idols— now writing as a duo amidst this lengthy hiatus, armed with a new drummer and new record label…gulp…Season of Mist. No disrespect to SOM —a quality source of extreme music for two decades— but as a Death Metaller at heart, I’ll forever be weary of any already-established band’s debut for this particular label. (TOO EXTREME!!) Luckily there’s nothing radikult here, but as expected this is a somewhat different ALOL. The foundation remains the same: cold, unfeeling riffs chug and bend in strict unison with a similarly mechanical rhythm section, serving as the canvas for Meadows to paint with his crazed-madman scream, which thankfully sounds as venomous as ever. The difference is a new pervading atmosphere that envelopes the band’s attack, and I’m not just talking about the occasional Hammond Organ. I’m talking about the guitar leads. This album is completely covered head-to-toe in constant leads! Leads over the verses, leads over the choruses, leads over the leads between the leads! Leads, leads, leads — to the rhyming and the chiming, from the jingling and the tinkling, to the swinging and the ringing of the leads, leads, leads! Psychedelic leads, Stoner leads, ’80s Cop Show leads… what a tale their terror tells of despair! These leads transform the songs’ heavy, aggressive structures into robotic background noise, nullifying much of their ferocity and creating an actual ecstatic trance. It’s all very well-played and hypnotic, but makes for an album that could potentially take a lifetime to truly sink in. Not the place to begin for new fans. Start with A Great Artist or Hunter first.
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