Big Al’s Metal Shop

A Life Once Lost and other Metal Happenings

As with most things in life, it is the little details that separate the good from the glorious. Take the Rex Theater, for example. With seats in place, the venue was a good place to watch a metal show. Without seats to obstruct crowd movement, the Rex has become a glorious venue. Add to that a bevy of shows coming up, and you have a recipe for the best kind of destruction.

My first show in the new seatless Rex was the Darkest Hour/Himsa/A Life Once Lost show last week. It was a very good show, with a solid line-up and good crowd containing a mixture of the young and the old. What made it stand out was A Life Once Lost (ALOL). Taking the stage to the strains of classic Black Sabbath, ALOL proceeded to unleash a light and sound show not seen since the days of Grace-era Neurosis. It isn’t often that hardcore kids aren’t swinging fists and roundhouse kicks in a pit, but instead of an opportunity for cathartic release, it seems that ALOL wanted the focus on them and their message. With lava lamps projected on the screen behind them, the emphasis was on a confluence of audio and visual stimulation. I have to say that I missed their daytime slot on last year’s Sounds of The Underground, and I hope to see them at this year’s Ozzfest. However, I think they could certainly benefit from a larger stage to play out their vision.

What that vision is exactly goes beyond the standard listing of their influences. Hunter, ALOL’s latest release that is out now on Ferret records, is indeed a non-linear path from beginning to end, musically speaking. Aggressive, relentless on the surface, yet lyrically dense, it unravels more with each listen. Unlike other albums I’ve discussed in this column, I believe that this is an album best heard on speakers, not headphones. The sound is large, and deserves walls to reverberate off of.

After their set ended, I was able to chase down vocalist Robert Meadows on Carson Street for a 20-minute chat on ALOL’s sound, words, and long-term plans. With cars honking in the background (not to mention tipsy college girls staggering by), Meadows let loose on his vision of ALOL and their reasons for existence:

On their touring history:

“We’ve done tours with [various bands], and have tried to adapt to a bigger stage. Seeing what works for them and what doesn’t. In terms of the show, we want to send people home with something to remember us by.”

On their visuals:

“I did see those Neurosis shows, where they had the guy do all their visuals, and your attention was just ... there. It’s something we’ve learned, not to take it to heart if the kids aren’t moving [to the music]. We try to make it a concert with a light show.”

On their passions growing up:

“We did grow up in the hardcore scene, some of us more metal with Pantera and such. The Meshuggahs and Black Sabbaths. Personally, I’m more into the guys who use vocals as an instrument, guys like Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, Mike Patton [from Faith No More]. Guys like that keep my attention.”

On his vocal training:

“I work with Melissa Cross, she’s the ‘Scream Lady’ who’s worked with Brain Fair and Randy Blythe.... I’m actually not on her first training DVD, but I’m going to be on her second one. Totally notice the difference in the power, the delivery. You treat your voice more.... I’ve been on tour for a year, and I can scream longer and last more than ever before. I try to make my voice clear and have people hear it.”

On their reasons for playing:

“We’re road dogs — it’s definitely not about money. It’s never been about money; I have no money. I’ve never made money playing. I’m here to give someone hope. I’m not here to tell someone they’re wrong for believing.... I’m here to tell someone ... that there is someone else who feels pain, depression, who feels lonely. And that it’s okay to feel these emotions, to talk about this. Growing up as a young man, I didn’t have an outlet for these emotions. And that there are creative outlets for them. As a kid, I went to see Orange 9mm, and I just fell in love with the idea of a band. I went for it, said forget school, forget everything, and I’ve ruined a lot of relationship, jobs, lost a lot of friends. In the long term, I see this band continuing, evolving. Talking about a band like Neurosis, you see their first album, which was punk, and then they evolve into this doom, heavy band and it’s awesome that they can do that. I get bummed out by people who see this life as being about money, consumed by it. There are bands like Fugazi who are about the music, keeping the tickets low, and being a groundbreaking band — this is what it’s about for me.”

On his message for the kids in Pittsburgh:

“I like to tell people that if you want to be where I am, you just have to have heart, you have to do it, and not let them tell you you’re not good enough.”

On that note, let me just say that there is another great band in Pittsburgh who is doing it, passing out awesome CDs at the show last week. They’re called Brave the Fire, and they can be found online at www.bravethefire.com and at www.myspace.com/bravethefire. Look for an interview and CD review sometime soon. Please help support local and live metal.

Till Next Time,
Up The Irons,

Big Al