“Yo, this is Life Right Now, 2019, baby!” So begins the first song on Avant Garde. Not very poetic, but it does correctly identify the band in question and the current year, although only one of these will remain accurate after December. Temporary accuracy of these words aside, Life Right Now‘s approach to language is a good place to start when evaluating their overall product. You’ve likely already guessed which way this review is going, so before I savage this band’s ability to string thoughts together, I’ll acknowledge that even lyrics in metal I LIKE are often cliche at best, so it’s fair to ask why I should pick on this metalcore band from…their Facebook page lists a hometown of “Worldwide Baby!” I just rolled my eyes so hard I need medical attention. The simple answer is, I can actually understand most of what’s being said here for a change, and hoo boy does it bear unpacking.
Let’s start with the title of the band’s debut, Avant Garde. I guess it’s conceivable these lads genuinely don’t know what that phrase means. After all, it’s French. Then again, the band claims to be from the entire world, so. Point is, Avant Garde doesn’t test the outer edges of anything except this reviewer’s patience. This is overly slick metal/electro/party-core, like a more bro-tastic We Came As Romans, amounting to vapid boy band pop with breakdowns. Zachary Scott’s harsh vocals are serviceable for the style, while Justin DiMarco’s cleans have the nasal timbre and clipped enunciation of an up-and-coming Disney Channel star. In fairness, he hits his notes with ease, but it’s hard to know whether or not he’s being assisted in production when every component of the album, from the generic guitar chugs to the drums to the harsh vocals have been digitally trimmed and polished. There are electronic elements on Avant Garde that make sense if you like a little EDM in your metalcore, but the overall production begs the question: why have guitars and drums at all when everything is already so programmed?
After the bold declaration of band name and year, opener “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right (But Three Do)” begins its proper assault on the senses with the lyric “Turn it up, turn it up, gonna fill my cup, we’re about to get real with the (mumble), we don’t give a fuck.” If the album simply continued with this tough-guy-dude-bro-just-cutting-loose vibe a la Fred Durst, I could at least place it in a tradition that’s somewhat metal-adjacent, even if I never listen to it again. Instead, the lyric a half minute later “…all of these words, they mean nothing” turns out to be remarkably prescient. With choruses like “I’m stuck, right now, right here, come a little closer, it’s all so clear” (“Stuck”) mindlessly repeated ad infinitum, these songs string words together that signify nothing in particular except FEELINGS. I suppose that’s not so different from other metalcore, but where some bands aim for The English Patient levels of high drama, Life Right Now are content to settle for The Jersey Shore. At least when lyrics are trite in other metal genres, there’s still imagery to ground them.1 There are a couple songs here that seem to be about something, like “That Dress Don’t Lie,” which is ostensibly about horniness and accidentally about misogyny. But hey, maybe they really do wear that lipstick just to play mind games.
There are moments that work on Avant Garde, and not just in the context of metal/electro/party-core. Many of the songs succeed in their main objective, which is to be catchy enough to take root in the brain like a tumor, and every component is tightly integrated into compositions that flow naturally, repetitive nature of pop notwithstanding. There are a few vestiges of metal left in this glossy machine, like the opening riff of “Wolfpack,” which is objectively pleasing, as well as the breakdown in “Something More” which is well placed and gets the blood pumping. Still, One Direction-esque choruses always lurk just around the corner.
At the end of the day this is some vacuous shit. As our own TheKenWord, a man with much more patience than I for poppy metalcore said, this is “like if Amaranthe soundtracked a shitty racing arcade game.” This homogeneous popcore has strayed a long way from the fury of forebearers like Unearth or Shai Hulud. It’s a fair question to ask why bands like Life Right Now continue to send us promos when time and again they’ve been on the business end of a lambasting. Perhaps it’s the same lack of self awareness that inspires them to name an album Avant Garde.
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self Released
Releases Worldwide: August 16th, 2019