Like Moths To Flames – ‘The Cycles Of Trying To Cope’

By Dave Stewart

Metalcore mainstays Like Moths To Flames have always been in touch with their emotions, willing to put all their turmoil on display and more than capable at conveying it in a way that’s both sincere and sonically impactful. Vocalist Chris Roetter always approaches his writing honestly, not just acknowledging his demons but weaving them into the fabric of the band’s output, and it’s always made their music insatiably raw and intense. On their new album, though, Roetter has gone a step further. With ‘The Cycles Of Trying To Cope’, Like Moths To Flames lead us through a cathartic eleven track journey, creating an accidental concept album that serves as a guided tour through Roetter’s inner turbulence. Strap in folks, this is a bumpy ride.

The record is split into four sections – Limbo, Fracture, Disassociate and Melancholia – with each one exploring both Roetter’s demons and the band’s musical capabilities. Despite this, the album feels as though it’s one cohesive piece of work, which is fitting, really. No matter how severe the troubles are or how deep the pain is, it’s all just a part of our individual experience as we walk through life. The music follows the band’s now well-established formula of relentless aggression blended with flashes of vivid colour, but the lyrical content and the way it paces the album makes this a very different beast.

‘Angels Weep’ opens the record in the most explosive way possible, full to the brim with guttural screams, groovy riffs and frantic blast beats to demonstrate that the band are operating at their most rabid. The track’s lyrics see Roetter confront the idea of death and what, if anything, might wait for him on the other side; a really dark appetiser, and a very powerful idea to kick things off. With limited moments to catch your breath, they tear straight into the expansive ‘Paradigm Trigger’, a delay-heavy motif fluttering behind crushing guitars to create a dreamlike bruiser. ‘Over The Garden Wall’ delivers another devastating blow, the band pulling no punches as Roetter battles with his mind, painfully expelling the words “Am I just unwell these days?” Guitarists Zach Pishney and Cody Cavanaugh have really pulled some tricks from their collective bags, taking unexpected and unpredictable turns with ideas that borrow from djent, black metal, hardcore and beyond, all while staying true to the LMTF identity. And we’re just getting started…

The Fracture section of the record brings the first change of tone, arriving in the form of the serene yet sturdy ‘Gone Without A Trace’. The track explores loss, the music at times opening wide to appear as though we’re inside Roetter’s mind as he asks himself questions, inevitably realising that the past can’t be changed. ‘Dissociative Being’ follows a similar formula, reintroducing the harsher vocals and toying with some pulverising riffs while still keeping a firm grasp on the delicate, more ethereal qualities of its predecessor. The album then violently shifts back into a feral gear, with ‘Shepherds Crown’ opening with the brutal line “What is a Shepherd without a flock to slaughter?” The vicious track dissects a crumbling relationship with religion, and the music treads a suitably devilish path that ultimately results in the death of faith. The band have never sounded as heavy as they do on this record, and it’s mouth-wateringly good.

The back end of the album sees some more sonic brutality in the form of the ominous ‘Everything That Once Held It Together’, the murky ‘The Depths I Roam’ and the emphatic closer ‘What Do We See When We Leave This Place?’, the latter touching on every side of the record in its ferocity, fragility and its conclusive lyrical direction. The star of the show, though, is the stunning ‘Kintsugi’, which serves as a centrepiece both thematically and musically. Kintsugi is a traditional Japanese art that sees broken things repaired with gold to make something new and beautiful, and here it sees Roetter trying to find the gold to repair himself; something that he’s looking for throughout the entire album. It’s something that a lot of us look for – a little glue to hold us together when life is at its toughest – and the emotional weight of the message buried within this connects like a sledgehammer.

Like Moths To Flames have made a hard-hitting and ambitious record with ‘The Cycles Of Trying To Cope’, and it makes a connection that their past albums haven’t quite managed to achieve. The introspective core of this record, married with its balancing act between fierce relentlessness and striking elegance, really hits home. Without the lyrical content this record is still a real powerhouse, but if you’ve gone through some tough times and they’re weighing on you – and let’s be real, we all have – this record is an outstretched hand reminding you that no matter what you’re going through, you aren’t alone. A properly special album.

DAVE STEWART

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