Review by Jack Arkell
Though Letlive‘s first two albums failed to lift them from beneath the radar, 2010’s Fake History shot the LA band into the public consciousness with its unrelenting, visceral energy. Therefore, for the first time in their eleven year stint as a band, there was serious pressure and expectation upon Letlive’s shoulders to create a record nothing short of exceptional.
Now with Loniel Robinson on drums following Anthony Rivera’s departure last October, Letlive went into the studio determined to show just how fruitful touring with the likes of Deftones and Enter Shikari had been to their writing process.
And so when ‘Banshee (Ghost Fame)’ surfaced a couple of weeks before the release date, both fans and impartial bystanders alike would have been placated by a track that clearly had the passion and unadulterated funk of their older material. Many drew comparisons to Rage Against the Machine, a likeness that seems relatively accurate on first listen.
From there the momentum only grows. ‘Empty Elvis’ is this album’s ‘H. Ledger’, its aggressive verses making way to a melodic chorus that will lodge itself in your memory. Written on the subject of government repression, ‘White America’s Beautiful Black Market’ may be a step down with regards to pace, but not in terms of overall quality. Frontman Jason Aalon Butler further proves his worth as a lyricist on ‘Dreamer’s Disease’ with the refrain ‘If home is where the heart is, then where do you keep your bed? And if home is where the heart is, then what will I do with this empty chest?’ ‘Younger’ sounds like a future single, with a delicious chorus and the hooky line ‘you and me, a kitschy parody of sincerity, apparently’, before ‘The Dope Beat’ showcases the incredible versatility of Butler’s vocals.
Much in the mould of Glassjaw or Refused, Letlive create an incredibly focused hardcore sound, yet still manage to keep an idiosyncrasy to their work. But it’s tracks like ‘Virgin Dirt’ and ‘Pheromone Cvlt’ that really set Letlive apart from their contemporaries. Far more soulful and affecting than most things their peers could write, these songs offer so much more than simply a change of pace. Both tracks will move and surprise the listener in equal measure, especially in context of the rest of the album.
More familiar with fans after its inclusion on Letlive’s setlists throughout 2013 is ’27 Club’, which closes things with a fluorish as Butler returns his lyrical focus to the topic of religion. ‘He walks like a Christian, talks like an Atheist’ covers the ambiguity of the frontman’s own beliefs as seen from an outside perspective, while a spoken word outro provides a surprise highlight of the collection.
Despite setting the bar almost insurmountably high with previous effort ‘Fake History’, Letlive have produced an LP peppered with acute lyrics and saturated with memorable musicianship. The Blackest Beautiful is the quintessential hardcore album of 2013, and ensures that Letlive are now seen as one of the most legitimate bands on the circuit.
9 out of 10
- Banshee (Ghost Fame)
- Empty Elvis
- White America’s Beautiful Black Market
- Dreamer’s Disease
- That Fear Fever
- Virgin Dirt
- The Dope Beat
- The Priest and Used Cars
- Pheromone Cvlt
- 27 Club