Californian quintet letlive. have become one of the most discussed bands in the world. After the brilliant ‘Fake History’ in 2010, the band were recommended to current label Epitaph by Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon and have toured with The Deftones, clearly attracting attention from all of the right people. How to follow up all of this anticipation? By recording ‘The Blackest Beautiful’, a record sure to cement their position as one of heavy music’s brightest shining lights.
‘Banshee (Ghost Fame)’, the first single, opens the record with a sense of familiarity. After a brief intro, the song roars into its first verse, when frontman Jason Butler screams his first line of ‘We’re here to fulfil every one of your dreams,’ the lyrics are nothing if not apt. An exercise in how to write an opening track, its chorus and verses punch hard, before the interlude showcases the melodic side of letlive.‘s coin. When the song’s final seconds fade, you find yourself wondering how they could possibly follow it.
Fortunately, ‘Empty Elvis’ continues where ‘Banshee’ left off, a gloriously schizophrenic song with the band creating what can (or maybe should) only be described as sonic anarchy. ‘White America’s Beautiful Black Market’ puts Butler‘s voice in the spotlight, fully justifying his reputation as one of the finest screamers and singers in heavy music today. The heavier passages find him at full throttle, and leaves eyebrows raised when his heartfelt singing comes through the melodic moments.
While it would be easy to concentrate on Butler‘s outstanding vocal abilities, and they are worthy of the attention, enormous credit should be given to the band’s rhythm section. The drumming throughout ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ is outstanding, and adding to that the able bass playing of Ryan Jay Johnson, the rest of the band have an excellent platform to express themselves and perform eleven songs of the very highest quality.
‘That Fear Fever’ encapsulates this notion completely, one of the album’s most immediate tracks. From start to finish it’s an adrenaline rush and the five members playing with a sense of urgency, of excitement.
The ace hidden slyly up ‘The Blackest Beautiful’s sleeve is its dynamism. letlive. could easily have made the best hardcore album of the year, conducted at breakneck pace in the blink of an eye, but they haven’t, a choice that pays endless dividends. The nuances and changes of pace littered throughout give the album an added sense of depth; emphasising poignant moments before allowing another chaotic passage to break free once more. ‘Pheromone Cvlt’ is a track as off-kilter as its name suggests, before letlive.’s last throw of the dice ends the album in style. While boasting variety throughout, all of the ten tracks preceding closing track ’27 Club’ come in at around four minutes in length.
All of a sudden, a sprawling seven minutes emerge, stronger than most other 21st century hardcore albums in itself, taking in the light and shade and twisting it, agonisingly. Making the emotional emotive, it’s impossible not to react to the sentiments expressed or the music itself. The silence that follows the end of the album is a heavy one, and only satisfied by hearing the opening moments of ‘Banshee’ once more.
Three years ago ‘Fake History’ set the expectation levels justifiably high, but ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ takes that notion, before smashing it out of this solar system. Many artists, in their bi-annual PR shtick ahead of an album release, will tell their fans that their new record is ‘heavier… but more melodic’. ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ is all of that, and more. It’s an absolute triumph.
Reviewer: David Straw