Published on March 22nd, 2020 | by Justin G.
A Life Divided: Echoes (AFM, 2020)
I’ve spent the last year and a half diving deeper and deeper into the retro synthwave genre, so when I saw the cover artwork for Echoes, the new album from German band A Life Divided, it definitely grabbed my attention. The colors, themes and cityscapes all screamed “synthwave,” but my understanding was that A Life Divided was more a hard rock band. With Echoes, the band’s approach was to take their darker hard rock style and drench it in ’80s-inspired synths. How could I resist?
A Life Divided didn’t suddenly become The Midnight here. Echoes is still very much a rock album, and has some surprisingly heavy moments. Still, that synthwave vibe is undeniable. At its most aggressive (see “Rock ‘n Roll Star” and “Anybody Out There”), the crunching riffs and angry chorus are perfectly offset by lush and delicate keyboards so it sounds like something Gunship might have remixed for them. It’s when that aggression is dialed back a bit that the album really shines. Like LeBrock and Magic Dance, they strike just the right balance between synth pop and melodic rock, and they do it very well. “Hello Emptiness,” “Far” and “The Ordinary” are all good examples.
I’m sure we’ll reach the saturation point with this whole retro synthwave sound some day, but today is not that day. A Life Divided has hit on a winning formula here, and I’d love to hear more from them in this vein. If you’re open-minded about your rock music, or open-minded about your synthwave, you may really enjoy Echoes. It’s effective in a LeBrock meets Nine Inch Nails kind of way, which is about the last thing I expected.
Summary: Rock meets synthwave