Letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful
Record Label: Epitaph
Release Date: July 9, 2013
Letlive. have been a well-kept secret of the genre. And by that, I mean everyone else seemed to recognize and understand their impact on the scene except for this guy, who only just discovered them before going on an outing to the Darien Lake date of Vans’ Warped Tour 2013. While intensely executed almost rap-rock/metal hybrid of single and first track “Banshee” had piqued my interest, I had no idea that what lay ahead was not only one of the best albums of the year, but a modern hardcore masterpiece in its own right.
Their live show remains one of the best I’ve ever experienced; the building of tension with three members on drums, the on stage energy of the band, and tank-ripping, shoe-kicking antics of frontman Jason Butler had me hooked even before he unleashed that Keith Buckley-esque howl that remains only one trademark of their unique (as in, you’ve never heard anything like this before in your life) brand of post-hardcore. Enter The Blackest Beautiful, LP3 and follow-up to 2010’s equally infectious Fake History.
“Banshee” kicks off the mayhem with gang vocals a-plenty over top pounding drums and drilling guitars, a theatrical show of musical precision that amazingly enough becomes, not a weak point, but definitely a small sample in comparison with what the rest of the record holds. From its beautifully hushed bridge and outro, we see the musical palette Letlive. is sampling from just before being ushered into the urgently screamed verses of “Empty Elvis”, which boasts one of the catchiest choruses (and my absolute favorite of the summer) on the album, slightly reminiscent of Bone Palace Ballet-era Chiodos.
The lyrical strength of TheBlackest Beautiful, be it the social commentary found in “White America’s Black Market” (“We’ll let the dreamers dream, if it’s American themed/But if it ain’t that, then I don’t believe a word they say/That bootstrap theory doesn’t fit all those feet”) or “That Fear Fever”, or personal reflection we see in the aforementioned “Empty Elvis” and “Pheromone Cvlt” (“To all the girls that would be perfect for me/Break my jaw so we can’t talk about me/Since my mouth is bigger than my heart could ever be/There’s no shame in screaming at deaf weddings”) is absolutely phenomenal. It’s like the sonic creativity and execution wrestle with Butler’s lyricism for front-and-center on the album, and in the end, this refreshing determination towards originality is what sets Letlive. apart from its peers. Admittedly, the record does begin to lose a bit of its steam upon reaching its second half(specifically the repetitively mundane pairing of “The Dope Beat” and “The Priest and Used Cars”), but I’ll be damned if the confident intensity and meandering in “27 Club” doesn’t make it one of the best album closers you’ll hear all year.
A large amount of Letlive.’s successful formula is their inability to sound directly like any other band we’ve heard. Sure, the influences can obviously be pinned from track to track (most notable Glassjaw and Every TimeI Die), but the musical creativity behind songs like “Virgin Dirt” and “Younger” are bound to be heard by young and old ears alike as something entirely new. In the end, album highlight “Dreamer’s Disease” should be the one to turn heads and open eyes to new musical ideas and expression as Butler screams his best one-liners (“I’ll die with a smile so my widow gets jealous”, “They say home is where the heart is/So where do you keep your bed?/And if home is where the heart is/What do I do with this empty chest?/And if home is where the heart is/It’s a crying shame we can’t afford the rent.”) over dragging, simple and distorted guitar riffs. It’s completely representative of the kind of pent-up aggression found throughout the album, and just like each previous release, it leaves us wondering where Letlive. could possibly venture next.
One thing is sure; if the results continue to be this dead-on, the band may be pioneers paving the way for a brand new genre that will never truly be duplicated, like that of their forefathers. And if teenage angst is merely a phase, it’ll be classics like The Blackest Beautiful that make us never want to grow up.