Gagged and reigned in.

Iron Gag is the new album from Philadelphian metal mob A Life Once Lost and it's a pretty different affair from previous album "Hunter": heavier but definitely less original, sounding more like Lamb of God, (especially on the vocals, which unsurprisingly have been produced by Lamb of God's Randy Blyth )than A life Once Lost. Sure they still pummel your ears for 11 super heavy tracks of powerful, down tuned strings and death metal screams but somehow they seem less raw, less exciting.

The album may be on the whole a bit of a letdown compared to the hardcore riffs of "Hunter" but it's not all bad. Heavy chugs and guttural screams occasionally give way to a more digestible menu of their trademark groove and listenable melody like 'All Teeth' which at four and a half minutes long feels punchy and fresh compared to some other tracks because of the infectious beat and some really quirky interludes. 'Meth Mouth' has impressive speed and seriously hard drums along with some angular, staccato riffs and 'Pigeonholed' a slower, darker and more engaging moment has a great off kilter rhythm which makes you want to get up and sway.

The trance inducing danceable, groove-laden and catchy elements of old, introduced by complexity and rhythm in the guitars are less evident on this new album, which is a real shame as that is what made them so addictive to listen to, the agenda here seems to be more about creating as much metal riffage as possible and not a lot else, so all the rough, raw elements that made them interesting and different and exciting have been swallowed up by the intensity of the wall of noise. The other main difference is the vocal style, sometimes it just doesn't sound like the same vocalist; on "Iron Gag" the lyrics are almost unintelligible, in place of the sing/scream of old he seems to have replaced it with a kind of retch/scream so he sounds like he's about to vomit rather than tell a story and the tone of his voice is totally different; here he sounds about an octave deeper.

Ok, perhaps it's too easy to be harsh by judging them on their previous output, because essentially this album is still head and shoulders above a lot of other modern metal bands, but it's still a bit frustrating to hear such a genuinely interesting hardcore band reigned in like this and producing such a straightforward if incredibly heavy metal outing.