Thursday 4 April 2013

A Life Once Lost - Ecstatic Trance (Album Review)

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : 16/11/2012
Label : Season of Mist

Ecstatic Trance, album tracklisting:
  1. Something Awful
  2. Gnawing Lisp
  3. Madness Is God
  4. Miracle Worker
  5. Empty Form
  6. I Am
  7. The Blues
  8. People Stare
  9. I See, I Hear
  10. I Sit Ill
  11. Asteroid (Bonus track on LP and Digipak Euro Ed)
Time to reconsider A LIFE ONCE LOST. You will still find the band as angry and relentless as ever since their founding in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the year 1999. Yet with their sixth album the Americans are boldly stepping out of the Metalcore corner they have been painted into. “Ecstatic Trance” thrills with a sinister coldness founded on huge, jagged riffs and churning, syncopated rhythms, which are contrasted by emotive guitar playing, explosive vocals and capturing melodies. A LIFE ONCE LOST founders Doug Sabolick and Bob Meadows create a disturbing vision born out of musical maturity for which they even cut ties with most other members. Their new sonic art fuses influences ranging from KILLING JOKE to CAN, KING CRIMSON to KRAFTWERK, FELA KUTI and more with their own organic soundscapes. A LIFE ONCE LOST set out with their first full-length “Open Your Mouth for the Speechless...In Case of Those Appointed to Die” (2000) and the “The Fourth Plague: Flies” EP (2001) to perform live with locals such as CONVERGE, THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and LAMB OF GOD. With “A Great Artist” (2003) their dark, rhythmic sound took hold and A LIFE ONCE LOST rose from a Northeast favorite to an all American phenomenon. The more refined “Hunter” (2005) even got the band invited to the prestigious Ozzfest in 2006. With “Iron Gag” (2007) they introduced traditional rock grooves and a more confident swagger into their already explosive sound and toured worldwide alongside HIGH ON FIRE, SUICIDE SILENCE, JOB FOR A COWBOY and others. Now A LIFE ONCE LOST are ready for the next giant step in their continuous evolution. Be warned: “Ecstatic Trance” is not for kids!
Line up
  • Robert Meadows – lead vocals (1999–present)
  • Douglas Sabolick – guitar (1999–present)
  • Jordan Crouse – drums (2011–present)
  • Chris Weyh - Bass Guitar (2012-present)

A Life Once Lost are back with a long-awaited new album and a new label, the excellent Season of Mist. This should be a tag team of epic proportions and the beginning of what I hope will be a long and fruitful relationship, so let's not waste any time and sink our teeth straight into 'Ecstatic Trance'.
The artwork and title for this new LP would suggest themes of a more meditative nature for the group, and to an extent this is very true. They've never struggled with expressing themselves ('Hunter' as an album was pretty much rage and self-loathing spewing forth), and the same goes for this new territory. This album is more progressive and maybe even mild, or as mild as ALOL can actually be. It still kicks ass in 50 different flavours, so don't worry about that. And all the ingredients that made you salivate in the first place are still present: great guitar licks and pumping drums, all with Bob Meadows' deranged vocals. But they are more clear and more focused, the leads are soaring and more exploratory and everything is more expressive. They actually have achieved a somewhat more spiritual offering. It's all very, very tasty.
'Something Awful' truly isn't. Classic ALOL riffs, birthed by the likes of Meshuggah kick in and you instantly feel comfortable, like an old tailored suit. But there are some dark atmospheric samples and effects going on in the background that separate it from earlier material. These nuances are present throughout the album and tie in with that perceived theme, and really are a welcome experimentation. I love the guitars on this record even more than fan-favourite older stuff.
'Gnawing Lisp' features more of those 60s / 70's infused guitar pieces. Maybe even some Floyd thrown in for good measure, almost as if David Gilmour had joined the ranks. Some of these tracks would be perfect on headphones, letting the sound soak your skull with a higher state of consciousness. Houston, we have absolutely zero problems. We're just dandy up here.
'I Am' is more traditional output, all slow and insane and full of groove. A great little instrumental interlude to remind you who you're listening to - some of the material here really is that much of a departure at times. It segues nicely into 'The Blues', another slow track but this time focusing more on this new theme / sound. It even has chanting in the background, to great effect.
'I See, I Hear' ups the ante and the pace, and is a positive ass-kicker. Righteous vocals and furious drums collide, all the while interwoven with the insane riffs that have always been a trademark of ALOL. It's like it's tried to reason with you but to no avail, and now it's pissed off and is trying to kick you out the door. But you don't wanna leave. Brilliant.
Special final mention goes to a bonus track - 'Asteroid', by the mighty Killing Joke. The boys do it great justice in their own inimitable style and its inclusion here is certainly no careless throwaway cut or filler. A great track and a great cover.
Don't worry after reading this review that A Life Once Lost have completely abandoned the sound that brought them to the dance in the first place. They're still up to their necks in aggression, and they still rule. But 'Ecstatic Trance' is a more contemplative affair, and it's just as worthy of your attention and time, if not more so in this hectic age

Words by : Matt Fitton

As always show your support to the band. You can buy the CD/LP here and DD at the usual places.  This record is immense.  Go buy it.  Thanks to Gunnar @ SOM for hooking us up with the record.