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Is This The Same Band? - 73%

MikeyC, May 24th, 2008

When the first track “Firewater Joyride” kicks in, it’s quite obvious that A Life Once Lost has changed a fair deal since their 2005 album “Hunter.” Did I say a fair deal? I meant completely. As in: They have seemingly completely changed what they are going, except that they are still evidently groove metal. They just embraced that tag much more here than they did there.

Iron Gag is nowhere near as technical as Hunter was. In fact, if all you heard was Hunter, you would be convinced that A Life Once Lost was a technical groove metal band. However here, they have ditched almost all of the technicality and went for a more straight-forward, groovy feel. I would count this as a bad move for this band, because what they had on Hunter was some of the most technical music in the groove metal realm.

The drumming here is still very good, but alas, not as technical. There’s still a fair amount of double-bass work and fills to keep you interested enough, but you can’t help but feel disappointed that there is nothing too technical about them. Still, he does what he can here and pulls it off flawlessly.

The guitar riffs are very groovy, definitely more so than their previous album. A lot of them blend into one another, but there are certain tracks where a riff or two will stand out, like on The Wanderer, Meth Mouth, and the beginning of Masks. The Wanderer is the most melodic, the longest, and the only clean-singing bearing song on the album. The guitar riffs definitely shine in this one, and it makes this particular song the best cut here.

Now, the biggest change here is the vocalist. It still surprises me, after all this time, that this is the EXACT same guy that sung on Hunter. He must’ve undergone throat reconstructive surgery because his vocals are just so different. Luckily for the listener, they are not bad…just as they were not bad on Hunter either, even though I prefer his voice on that album. Here, it feels like he ditched brutality in favour of clarity, as he is much more legible. He still growls well, though, so it is not something to lose sleep (or ear drums) over.

Even though this is a near 180-degree turn for A Life Once Lost, it is not such a bad groove metal album. It suffers from repetition and can become boring for the death metal purist, but for everyone else, you should probably give it a try. If you’re just starting with this band, though, I recommend Hunter much more.

Best tracks: The Wanderer, Meth Mouth