It\’s been a rough few years for Philadelphia\’s A Life Once Lost. Guitarist Doug Sabolick got hit by a car in June 2009 and was sidelined for a stretch with vertigo, and the band split with their longtime label, Ferret. Then, when things got rolling again, drummer Justin Graves and guitarist Robert Carpenter bailed in 2011, leaving Sabolick and frontman Bob Meadows to pick up the pieces. Hence the five-year wait for a follow-up to 2007\’s Iron Gag.
If nothing else, the band certainly come back swinging with their fifth and latest album Ecstatic Trance, which, despite its trippy title, is a bludgeoning outing to be sure. The Meshuggah-style riffing Sabolick doles out here is just mammoth, made all the moreso by the piledriving, lockstep pace set by new drummer Jordan Crouse.
Don\’t look for jaw-dropping technicality here, a Life Once Lost seem satisfied with mere brute force on “People Stare” or “Madness Is God.” And though Sabolick does add an ethereal wash of second guitar over the top for atmosphere, that\’s pretty much where the subtleties end.
At a time when everyone else seems to be getting more and more technical, A Life Once Lost\’s contrarian strategy really isn\’t such a bad idea. If only the guys had thought to vary the tempos and tone a bit more. Even at 33-some minutes, Trance feels ponderous and, at times, overbearing. It\’s all groove and grit, with little color or spice. Meadows\’ atonal holler doesn\’t help in that regard either.
Hopefully the future will be a bit kinder to these guys and they can lighten up a little next time.
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