Written by Katlyn Shannon
Without music, what would we be? How would we feel the same emotions, deal with pain, dance with joy, or mosh with anger, and more importantly, how would we feel? Listening to music allows a sense of emotional release that cannot parallel or compare to any other sensory experience. Music evokes emotions that are both very physically and mentally activating, both stimulating in lyrical content and through the combination of various instruments. Music makes you smile, dance, move, cry, and rage, and could be considered a source of energy, as well as an outlet for such.
The Word Alive‘s 5th studio album, Violent Noise, was released May 4, 2018, and bolsters a grand display of pure emotion that is full of an eager energy ready to surface. This album has very deep-seeded feelings, both positive and otherwise, and articulates those feelings very well. There is honesty within Violent Noise proven to be therapeutic, it shows strength in solidarity and boldly states that it is okay to go through things, it is okay to feel.
The opening track off Violent Noise, “Red Clouds” dives right into the field of feelings with “The drive to be someone you’re not/ Chased desert dreams in hopes I’m not forgotten/ I told myself I was doing the right thing/ Faked everything, faked everything I’m not”. This seems as if the main character is afraid to admit that he’s a little lost in his successes or in his eyes lack thereof, always chasing something more and wishes to escape that mentality. This is further displayed with the lyrics “Red clouds come down/ won’t you take me away? / Red clouds all around/ won’t you take me away”. Lead vocalist Telle Smith sings “Cause sometimes it takes a little bit of leaving/ to find to find some meaning”, showing that it is okay to take time to find yourself and your place in this world and that you owe nothing to anyone. This mindset is displayed later with “Well now I know better/ I’ll never be your prisoner/ I hoped you knew me better/ I am my own prisoner”. This illustrates that there’s an urge for new beginnings, but also a tribute to the past and where everything started so many years ago.
Energy similar to the static shock built from the friction of a fleece blanket upon bare skin begins the single “Why Am I Like This”, and the listener is immediately drawn in through both audible pleasantries from both the serenading, melodic vocals paired with expressive guitar and lyrical connection in “Honestly, I’m waiting for you to say you’re ready/ If this is happening, just tell me”. Something in the way this sounds – the pauses in between words, the cadence in Telle’s voice – really draws the attention of the listener and holds it close like one would a lover. The serenading vocals and catchy melody, head-bobbing chorus, and applicable lyrics make this a great choice for a single. The screams around the 2:00 mark are a nice addition to an otherwise mainstream-sounding song. There’s money to be made in that, and I’m here for it. Sidenote: Big high five for promoting consent boys. I don’t think that’s necessarily where they were going with this, but either way, I applaud.
“Stare at the Sun” is a riveting track, one of two on the album to feature guest vocals. This song contains exquisite riffs and builds to the chorus very nicely. “Stare at the Sun” speaks of serious internal struggles as depicted in lyrics “Tell me right now, “get my shit together”/ Maybe I’m naïve, a little undone/ But I’ll just laugh as I stare at the sun”. Minute marker 1:19-1:30 possess very well placed screams, pleasing to the ear. Danny Worsnop of Asking Alexandria comes in for the breakdown at 2:03, and leads back into Telle singing the chorus to end the song in heavy symbolism with “Stare at the sun!”
“I Fucked Up” is a very expressive and honest piece. This song speaks such violent truth to the mentality that they now hold. The entirety of this track evokes pure emotion from the listener. On the first playthrough, every hair on my body stood up in unison as if to salute the music, and my arms tingled with absolute reverence for this band. The first verse of this song peaked my interest with relatable lyrics, “I’ve thought that this was it/ said a thousand times “I quit”/ But I can’t let go cuz I need this/ Hate me?/I fucking hate me…” and even more so with the chorus “This is for every time that I fucked up/ Didn’t believe that I was enough…/ We won’t give up/ (Give it up, give it up, give it up)”. This is relatable to those listeners who have been through relationships that made them feel they were never up to par or meeting the standards expected of them by their partner. For those that ever felt guilty for having feelings about someone who invited those feelings into your lives specifically to make sure that very thing happened. The bridge cries “At your mercy/ Down on my knees/ Now you see me/ As I’m breaking” and throws itself straight into the breakdown (which I found particularly clever and cheeky on their behalf), of “Hate me/ Hate me/ Hate me/ Hate me, you hate me, you hate me”. Hate is a strong word and The Word Alive is serving up HOOKS.
Upon first listen, “War Evermore” was not my favorite song on the album, but lyrically it feels necessary to convey the mentality they were experiencing throughout the writing process. This song is very grave and seems to allude to giving up hope and but then turns to expresses the idea that even though times are dark, things can and will get better. Much of the theme of this album is finding one’s self and learning to acknowledge but also live in unison with your demons and to deal with even the most uncomfortable of emotions. “War Evermore” is similar in tempo to other songs on the album. The bass tones are very pleasing and the guitar has a nice short and sweet moment of showcasing talent. The song ends rather softly, and incredibly abruptly, but I feel somehow that’s very fitting for such a listening experience. The message here is simply “You are not alone, keep fighting”.
An unexpected musical style from The Word Alive is displayed in the song “Human”, but it also showcases the powerful lyrics and emotional attachment they really put into their writing. New and veteran fans alike will relate to on a very personal level. Smith expresses this with a pleasant pre-chorus, “I’m blessed, I’m cursed/ Thoughts in my head making it worse/ I always make things worse” into the chorus, “I’m lost and found/ In the safety of all my doubts/ I’m lost and found/ I’m human”. This chorus is one of my favorites of the album, both for the message it conveys and also for the sound of it as well. Telle coos to fans with “I know you think that you know me/ But I’ve only told you part of my story” as a plea for privacy without being judged for his decisions. This industry can be trying, this career path is not easy and takes a toll on friends and family and most especially the musicians themselves. Fans these days can be so intruding and demanding of information, as if these people they obsess over and heavily idolize aren’t just people themselves. The song takes a stylistic turn when Stanley Collins joins in around 2:16 and lays down some free-flowing rhymes on the next chorus and even has his own verse in the song. This is very different than anything we’ve seen from TWA previously. The blend of hip-hop and metalcore is very well done, big ups to producer Matt Good.
“I Don’t Mind” is dynamically different from the rest of the songs on this record. This song is going to be so big, a true bop! The guitar in this is smooth as cream cheese on a bagel, and the drums really provide a feeling of passive-aggressive anger that contradicts the lyrics “I don’t mind” and leaves the listener pleasantly satisfied at this semi-revenge track. “I Don’t Mind” opens with sounds similar to being in a crowded auditorium at a school and jumps into a fast paced jam that reminds me of something from the late 2000s. The song begins lyrically with the chorus, a nice change up from the other songs on the record. “I don’t mind, I don’t mind/ Wasting my time/I don’t mind/ Out of time, out of time/ Got left behind/ I thought I wouldn’t mind” these lyrics explain in an almost snarky tone that their time clearly isn’t important to the person the song is to. The first verse explains that they want to be free of the relationship and unaware of the happenings in that person’s life now. “I wanna be free,” asks that people just let him be who he wants to be. I love the guitar riff just before the vocal emphasis on “BE FREE” in the middle of the song. It’s such a wonderful placement for just the perfect amount of surprise and ultimate talent. The pre-chorus explains that they were through being manipulated, and I fully support leaving a relationship to better your own health. “Am I crazy anticipating your lack of concern for my life? / It’s like erasing my memories that were your design/ but does it make me right?” This makes the assumption that even though they’ve moved forward they’re still second-guessing their thoughts and actions due to severe manipulation experienced in a previous relationship. Nobody has time for that.
“Real Life” is an energizing track full of urgency with the idea of finding oneself. “When you find yourself/ I wanna find myself… I’ve searched and searched at times/ I thought I’d found the light/ But nothing ever changes”. Everyone wants to be living their “best life”, but these guys just want to live that “real life”. This song takes a second listen to really appreciate and get into, but it grows on you.
“Lost in the Dark” is another upbeat tempo jam that is opened with a very “one, and two and three and four and” beat that I wasn’t sure how I felt about at first, but thirty seconds in and my feet were tapping along, and I felt good about it. This feels as if they were aiming very mainstream with this one, but again, if it makes them happy by all means – because it makes me happy and that is very refreshing to be able to say. It’s something I could see on a “current hits” list for sure!
Songs like “My Enemy” is what The Word Alive fans came here for, as it truly resonates classic TWA sound. This song is the heaviest on the album and most likely the catchiest as well. It shows that it’s okay to make mistakes and mess up, that the author built the bridge he is burning, and they don’t want anyone involved to become anymore damaged by the situation than they already had been. “My Enemy” is a song many fans will relate to, and many more will mosh to something ridiculous. Better bring earplugs for this concert, the only way to listen to this hit is loud.
Oh my, the guitar opening of “Run Away” is like a fly to the honey in my sweet tea on a hot day in humid Alabama. I feel “Run Away” is similar in sorts to the sound of “My Enemy”, but is much less self-loathing and more reassuring in spirit than other tracks, a song more cleansing in mindset. These lyrics are so positive and uplifting in their bold honesty and lack of reserve. “Your vision is blurred as you’re on the way out/ It’s hard to deny on the way down/ Can you hear my voice is it getting too loud?/ I don’t want you to make the mistakes that I am now,” really speaks to the audience to say, “Hey, just because you look up to me doesn’t mean I am your savior, I am my own person I make my own mistakes”. The lyrics “Run away, run away but don’t forget/ Stay the same stay the same and you’ll always regret/ All the possibilities and what they meant/ run away, run away and never come back,” encourages others to face their challenges because running from them could be throwing away opportunities they have yet to discover. “We fall apart/ it finds us the same, no matter who you are”. This lyric is so vastly important to this song and this album as an entity. It is all-encompassing of the theme, to say I am no different than you, nor you than I, please treat each other with kindness – you never know what someone is going through”.
Sometimes life happens, and things don’t work out. For example, someone comes into your life that you build a relationship with who means a lot to you and it turns sour without explanation. Maybe you were enthralled with this person, but have since found you are better off alone. Time passes and you realize loneliness is an emotion all too familiar.
The Word Alive can relate and express their intimacy with this feeling and this situation so vibrantly within the single “Lonely”. The listener will establish an immediate connection with the smooth, easy beat. The song proves to be both catchy and situationally familiar. It finds a home in audiences that have experienced true manipulation and heartbreak. The first verse bites down with “They say that time heals all wounds/ but not yours, not yours/ So you’re trapped in your mistakes/ And now you’re who you hate”. This sounds as if the lyrics are speaking to someone who hurt them and that person regrets doing so because of what it looks like. Maybe not so much that it makes the writer want to rekindle the relationship, but simply address that there’s a sense of unwanted sympathy, egging for pity toward the subject. The chorus reaches out with “I know it feels like you’re sick of me/ Describe what it’s like now that you’re missing me/ Guilty apology, wasted sympathy”. It seems as if someone from a past relationship once deeply cared-for carries an opinion that is no longer mutually exclusive to their relationship with the author.
As if in losing someone, the writer has found the very same worth they were seeking in their partner, but instead within themselves. The writer wants to revel in this the same way the subject did with the victim (the writer) and does so by asking the subject to “describe what it’s like now that you’re missing me”. It’s both empowering and haunting in the same stroke. The second verse contains the lyrics “You’re always chasing the next best thing’ Float away/ It doesn’t feel real till you feel the sting/ Float away” and depicts that the relationship was tumultuous; the hard feelings one is dealing with now are not shared by both parties. This leaves an air that the lyricist is better off now than they were with someone who was proving to be toxic because they made them feel they were never enough. The bridge to this song resonates with listeners through classic Telle vocal-screams and deep-cutting “You’ll never be whole, buried your soul” in repetition three times and then “Buried your soul, buried your soul”. This expresses the idea that the subject won’t find peace until they change their ways, no matter how hard they try to appear aloof and unaffected. The song closes with the chorus, ending on “wasted sympathy” to ensure a permanent statement. “Lonely” is a heavy contender for the most noteworthy track on Violent Noise, because of the way that it makes you feel. It contains the perfect ratio of clean vocals to screams; it’s my favorite track on the record.
A big mood for this record is the idea of transition, that sometimes losing something or someone is not necessarily a negative situation, but rather an opportunity to grow. Loss and separation can provide a gateway to newfound ways of expressing one’s emotions and gives a chance to work on your honesty – to admit your wrongs and improve. This is my favorite album The Word Alive have released thus far.