Lifewalker – Rx


Strange things have happened to progressive metal over the last ten years. The genre (if we can still call it that) has been witness to a firm schism between the bands who remain true to the conventional scope of prog, and a relatively new breed of bands with more modern, accessible aspirations. To me, djent represents everything that is both wrong and right with progressive metal as it currently is. The rhythmic, chuggy sound arguably hit its peak with TesseracT‘s Concealed Fate EP years back and has since felt painfully stagnant. While it wouldn’t be entirely fair to call Lifewalker a truly fresh breath of air for djent, the unabashedly poppy approach they employ on their seven song EP Rx quickly sets them apart from their peers, who often value technical wizardry over impactful songwriting. That’s fortunately not the case with these guys.

TesseracT are the closest comparison I might make with Lifewalker‘s sound at present. The djenty chug and crystaline digital production are here, as are vocals (offered here by Stephen Dodge) that don’t sound like they would have any regular place being on a metal album. This contrast between metal and pop puts Lifewalker in a fairly uncommon niche. On Rx, they easily take the TesseracT sound towards poppier heights, shifting the balnace and consequently coming across a particular sound they might as well call their own. Although I’m still unconvinced this pop-oriented style of vocals really works in their sound, they’ve got the pop bases nailed in their songwriting. The hooks are quick to pull you in, and a typically overblown production doesn’t stop them from pulling for the emotional heart of the listener.

The talent of these guys is undeniable. Coalescing from the ashes of Virginia Beach-area prog and metalcore acts, they’ve come together to offer up something that combines both and something more. With the debut Diagnose Me and this EP trailing by shortly after, they already demonstrate the technique and flair of a relatively professional group. Their appeal is sure to be limited from people looking for a true-to-form brand of progressive metal, but there’s no wonder why they’ve been hits with their given crowd and earned some posh opening spots already.

Reviewing a band like Lifewalker can brew a kind of cognitive dissonance. While I can’t say the modern pop angle really meshes with their prog metal influences (which usually tends to spite pop at every twist and turn) it undeniably gives Lifewalker a distinct edge in a style that usually breeds sameness and ennui. If you’re looking to see a face of progressive metal with the tact and sound that might actually stand to appeal to a present day mainstream audience, Rx is a worthy insight. Those looking for a more erudite sort of prog metal might look elsewhere.

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