Alpha & Omega - Life Swallower (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Alpha & Omega

Life Swallower (2010)


Perhaps the hardcore hype train that Alpha & Omega rode on this past year can be attributed to their star-studded network: One of these dudes apparently guitar teched for Terror, and Paul Miner (Throwdown, New Found Glory) recorded their full-length debut, Life Swallower. That might be why you've seen their Biblically epic name in similarly large-scale places, such as SXSW, Hayley Williams' Twitter and every huge hardcore fest, and all in the last two or three years. This is the type of thing that will turn off the kids outright, but as it turns out, Life Swallower is one of the best hardcore debuts to hit in all of 2010.

Alpha & Omega aren't unlike their frequently associated peers in Cruel Hand, applying an especially metallic crunch to older NYHC brute. But where the band separate themselves--and make Life Swallower the better record in the process--is through incorporating a way more thrash edge, which honest-to-goodness grazes the flair of those first few Metallica records. It's an influence that remains pleasingly omnipresent on record, too. Granted, there's a modicum of cheesiness at play here, but Life Swallower is just smart, inventive and catchy enough to overcome such a slight sheen.

Opener "Fueled by Sin" barrels through with a clear urgency and an immediate hook digging in. Their frontman uses his raspy, gravel-flecked yowl to declare he's "losin' [his] skin," and the line just sticks. A wailing crossover solo kicks off the chugging "Lead Me Home" (and it's in plenty of other songs, too), where there's an inflection in the singer's voice that warrants comparisons to another of the band's peers: Blacklisted (probably Peace on Earth, War on Stage era), as the waver in his voice and the similarly heavy backing is definitely reminiscent of George Hirsch and co.

"Wortheless Life" has a subtly dynamic transition to its chorus, and is another track proving how well this band just does head-banging, heavy/hard mosh parts without overdoing it or shoehorning them at all. The trick is to build the tension to that point at least a little bit, not just throw them in there, and A&O get it.

The second half is highlighted by suddenly quiet interlude track "Seven," a late instrumental entry that mixes somber acoustic and electric pickings. It reveals the band's classicist influences even more so, but it's a brief and beautifully melancholic break from the snarling ruckus. "Faded Path" is one of those aforementioned Blacklisted-like songs, but it's a big standout all the same, while the band take another quick chance with a few nasally sung lines in "Stand Alone"--and it doesn't sound like Godsmack, thankfully.

In a year where great, or even really good hardcore full-lengths seemed to be a rarity, Life Swallower is an anomaly. Even if this particular style of hardcore doesn't normally do much for you, it's worth checking out because they're doing it better than so many.

Fueled by Sin
Lead Me Home
Stand Alone