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A Life Once Lost - Ecstatic Trance (Season of Mist Records)

By: David E. Gehlke

[8/10] Looking to finally shed the Lamb of God-on-Meshuggah criss-crossing that effectively saddled the band for their last two albums, Philadelphia's A Life Once Lost have made good on their five-year absence, returning with the quirky, groove-tastic, and undeniably heavy Ecstatic Trance. Whereas prior efforts saw ALOL head to the flooded staccato canal one too many times (see: 2005's Iron Gag) or the dim-witted, slack-jawed "pure" American metal prairie (2007's The Hunter), Ecstatic Trance does its best to cancel out the band's obvious influence-on-sleeve wearing. In fact, no album in 2012 gets down with a slithery groove like this.

With an aversion to tempo shifts and beat alteration, a lot of the songs on Ecstatic Trance find their starting point and rarely, if ever deviate from it. In this climate, where too many ideas in a song is seen as a good thing, ALOL's stubbornness in this department creates a hypnotic and throttling effect, one that allows such forays like "Something Awful" and the powerful "Madness is God" to take a dominating stance. The jist of the matter is that it's readily apparent that these songs outweigh and out-heavy any sort of thrash d-beat frocking, or stupid-on-10 deathcore beatdowns. There's never once a detour from the heaviness.

Vocalist Robert Meadows has wisely unhinged his modern metal cackle, shedding the totally noticeable Randy Blythe action that was heard on Hunter. He's brash and in-your-face, for lack of a better term, and sometimes borders on being an annoyance (see: "Miracle Worker"), yet knows when to get the you-know-what out of the way on "I See, I Hear," which is the band's best song, thanks in large part to tornado riffing that is shrapnel-like in its sharpness, bolstered by a monstrous groove (definitely overused that word).

A winner not only because of its unabashed emphasis on pure heaviness and girth, Ecstatic Trance is a rare entrant into the American metal field that doesn't rely on any type of thrash. In fact, the total avoidance of it is what makes the album enjoyable across the board. It's refreshing, for one, and a serious take-action item for the rest of the American metal scene who appear to be content lollygagging with the same old boring ideas.

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