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I'm picturing a car that won't start. What can you see? That juddering, grinding of gears, the difficulty of movement where movement should be easy - basically, it's hard to really enjoy this album. This kind of music isn't exactly my favourite (I seem to remember picking this up very cheaply in the days when I didn't have any money) but, when done well, it can be immensely satisfying to listen to. Those choppy, rocky metalcore riffs opposed with the more fluid groove riffs can work a treat for bands like Lamb of God and...oh yeah, that's who A Life Once Lost sound like. It's not so much an influence, more like a parasitic presence, to the point where Randy Blythe actually contributes vocals to 'Vulture' (the song chosen for promotion, natch) and he's much better than Robert Meadows, who - unsurprisingly - has filled in for Lamb of God before. You see where this is going?
First, the vocals. They are executed with a super-brootal tone, always screamed, and never varied. This sounds okay, except that the aforesaid super-brootal tone sounds just like my screams when I'm trying to expel a tough piece of poop that's much larger than my rectum. They aren't great vocals and the vocalist never shuts up.
The rest of the band give it a slightly better shot. The guitarists don't do a bad job, changing up between the stuttering riffs and the smoother ones, though many of these sound similar to one another and I definitely can't pick a favourite. They are smart enough to change things up completely on the brooding title track and also add plenty of very welcome melodies and solos (always short, but reasonably tasty), which are actually the most interesting thing here. We can detect the bassist, who sounds like no one's told him that the Meshuggah audition is finished and that Randy Blythe has left the studio. The drummer is pretty good, but what he plays is generic and can't get me excited at all.
I need to talk about the songs now, but don't worry, this won't take long. There are only two. There's the one where the band play in their signature style, like 'New American Gospel'-era Lamb of God having a fight with 'Sacrament'-era LoG with a very noisy, very drunk commentator screaming over everything. Then there's the one where the metalcore is dialed back a bit and the guitars get moody with a touch of keyboard backing them up, which I prefer, if only because it's a change. This style emerges on the title track (with the same aggressive commentator) and 'Salai', a short instrumental track that isn't very interesting, though the band clearly thought it was.
The problem with 'Hunter' is that everything is vaguely competent and there are no ridiculous mistakes thrown into the mix, but it ends up being excruciatingly boring, even at just 35 minutes. It copies another band's style, doesn't improve on it, has generic riffs and song structures, and the vocalist shits all over everything. Someone give him some toilet paper, please.
This is metal boiled down to it's most basic and primeval substance. Right from the start it is an assault on your ears that is impossible to resist. The groove is well laid and not overdone, and the writing is inventive for the simplicity. It has it's issues, as all albums do, but overall I think this is an excellent piece of music. I'll go through the songs one by one, since that is the simplest way to review music in my experience.
First, we have Rehashed. The assault begins with a simple drum fill and that infectious groove is presented. The drums are simple enough, yet fit the song very well, and what else can be asked for drums? The guitars are excellent, if simple. It is obvious that the band isn't playing with such simplicity due to a lack of skill or laziness, but rather to create a simple, upfront and heavy album. The songwriting is effective, providing you with a beat that is varied and yet ever present. The vocals are simply mind-blowing. The power and skill that Bob Meadows uses in his voice is amazing. There are times where you can hear his voice almost breaking out of the scream, however, but the overall product is very striking.
Next is Needleman. An interesting opening, well written, and not as groovy as Rehashed. The intro dies down into simplicity yet again, and the vocals cut through... again, with that strained quality, yet obvious power. The chorus is melodic and infectious. This is not my favorite song on the album, but it is well done nevertheless. I personally would not have put it second on the album, but it is still a good song.
Then comes my favorite song on the album. The powerful ordered chaos of Vulture. This is the epitome of the album -- simple and groovy, yet well written and the vocals are amazing. The energy and power that the band makes here is not to be underestimated. They certainly make you "feel this uproar." Then the song calms down, and showcases the band's writing ability. This band has a talent for not letting simplicity limit them, and they show it here.
Pain & Panic. Dark, almost slamming, and strong. This song provides a groove that is almost danceable, but an atmosphere that is dark and almost frightening. This is definitely a song to mosh to. This is one of the few songs that is free from the vocal flaws that plague the other tracks, and is easily one of the best songs on the album. Add an excellent solo, and you have a great crossover metal/hardcore song.
Ah, the self titled track, Hunter. My least favorite song on the album. Vocal flaws are few and far between, but the song itself is slow and almost boring. It's still as well written as the other songs, but I just do not like slow metal songs. The atmosphere is more present here than any other song, which is a plus, and still makes the song enjoyable. The vocals are powerful and well done, and make the song.
Next we have Grotesque, another solid and groovy track. While it is present in the whole album, this song is a great example of laying the groove without playing the groove. The band understands that the drums set the beat and the rest of the song is on top of that, and this is a great example of that songwriting concept. It could have been faster, it could have been heavier, but it is still excellent.
Next is the instrumental filler track Salai. Not really much to talk about here. Well done, and haunting.
Next is A Rush And Siege. A slow intro leads into a brutal, heavy, groovy metal masterpiece. A few vocal flaws here and there, but an excellent track. The groove is varied and strong, and the vocals and chorus are infectious. An excellent breakdown leading to a good solo is a welcome change to the song.
I Give In. Not one of my favorite tracks. This track shows the ability of the band to play in odd time signatures, and that is well done. The chorus is powerful. However, the songwriting is not up to par with the rest of the album. The song feels like it needs a little more work done in the writing process.
Next is Ghosting. More varied time signatures, and better songwriting. The lyrics to this song are amazing, and the song itself is great. I feel like it's time I address one of the albums main failings. The songwriting on this album is well done, but too formulaic. It feels like the band stayed in the same few keys for the whole album. Almost every riff sounds like any other on the album. However, they manage to keep me interested in the album and keep it just varied enough so as not to be too repetitive.
With Pitiless Blows. Infectious groove. Great riff. The drums shine through in this song. And this fucking song is heavy. Very heavy. It's almost slamming. This song is written to be played live. The energy and power in this song make it one of the best songs on the album, and some may say the best. The breakdown is great, and when Bob Meadows screams “With pitiless blows” it feels like a call to arms and makes me want to start a fucking pit. What more can you ask from metal? This is a great end to the album, and wraps it up excellently.
So there you have it. Really, there are only two issues on this album, those being vocal flaws and mistakes that are few and far between and take very close attention to notice, and the almost formulaic riffs. However, the riffs, songwriting, vocals, the power and energy, and that damn groove combine to make an undeniably great album.
This album's far too fucking groovy!
Mind you, I quite like it as a whole. The vocals are heavily distorted, but rather original considering the amount of bland metalcore vocals people throw around these days. He's got an original "condensed shouting" tone to his voice rather than an all out scream.
A fault is the fact that a lot of these riffs sound like something you'd hear on CSI during a chase scene. 2:04 of Needleman for example, sounds like something a band like Static-X would put out. Only briefly, but it's enough to throw me off. It's these kind of groovy, too thickly produced riffs that turn me off on this record. There's some nice grooves and a few nice tempo changes that are instrumentally impressive, but there's no riffs here that are fast, chaotic, and catchy. The guitarwork is simply not musical enough here, it's far too mathematical. Bands like this who use the one chord but use it in a rhythmical sense to create odd patterns aren't very metal, nor are they very good.
Overall, the album is (as I said) technical, but without impact. Nothing sticks with you. As you hear the songs, you might think they sound pretty cool. However they are not memorable nor are they melodic. They're just blocks of sound that's difficult to headbang to, and nothing more.
A Life Once Lost's third album goes farther down the road they started with A Great Artist, and has a ton more interesting stuff. It's also not as boring. The problem with A Great Artist was by the end of the album, it became rather boring, whereas Hunter is strong all the way through.
Hunter has what you'd expect and a bit more. All the groove and rhythm filled riffs, as well as the disjointed time riffs are here, but it also has hooks and melodic solos. Where A Great Artist sounded like Meshuggah, Hunter sounds like a marraige between them and Lamb of God also. So think of the disjointed rhythm of Meshuggah with the groove of Lamb of God and you'll get Hunter.
The vocals on this album rule. Robert Meadows, while not suprassing Tomas Lindberg, definetly rivals him in the "vulture vocal" camp, meaning they both sound like their vocal chords have been pecked out by crows. Totally brutal. The production on this album is top rank too. All instruments are heard clearly and it's heavy.
On board here is an instrumental track "Salai" is sounds like it could have come straight off of Catch 33.
With Hunter, Ferret Music is promising "The Heaviest Album of the Summer", After hearing this, I certainly wouldn't disagree, but points are deducted because with it's short length, it could either have more songs or the existing ones could've been longer. The majority of these songs barley pass the 3 minute mark, time problems aside, this album has it all. Attitude, leads, riffs, rhythm, groove, solos ect. Go check it out!
Recomended Listening: Needleman, Vulture, Pain & Panic, A Rush & Siege.