letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful (Review)

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At the start of 2013 there were very few albums I was looking forward to more than a new release from letlive., and now, 7 months later, that release is here. To say my expectations for new material from the American quartet were high would be an understatement, following the exceptional album that was ‘Fake History’. Considering lead singles don’t come much better than ‘Banshee’ I expected these high expectations to me met, and produce album of the year material like it’s predecessor. Is ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ very, very good? Yes. Is it album of the year material? Not exactly.

My own high expectations ruined ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ for me initially, and therefore it took me a while to truly get ‘into’ this album. I did however, after numerous listens, and ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ opened up to me, and I began to truly appreciate how good an album it actually is (because this is a very good album), that any sensible person would love immediately.

‘The Blackest Beautiful’ is 45 minutes of excellent post-hardcore conducted in a way that is 100% letlive. It’s unique as a result of it’s style and delivery, and stands apart from pretty much every other release in the scene at the moment, because it’s different and excels at being so. letlive. have released an album that is manic, creative and exhilarating. It’s heavy / soft, complex / simple and basically a very diverse release that requires numerous listens to adequately dissect. The majority of these features are predominantly a result of Jason Alan Butler and his unique style of vocal delivery, which can shift from screams to melody effortlessly, and he rarely lets up throughout the albums duration. Butler has a voice that is unique in its own right, and his variety of deliveries and styles is one of the strongest aspects of his bands album. For the most part ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ is ‘The Jason Butler’ show and he ultimately gives the album its longevity. Mixing his range of vocals with excellently written lyrics and a solid full band performance makes for truly effective songs that are both hard hitting and catchy.

Of course, Butler’s vocals would mean very little without solid instrumentation, particularly on drums. Anthony Rivera is very talented and the drums on each track provide rhythm as well as balance. Hopefully his replacement will be as equally good. For me, the guitars take a back seat on ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ and this is where my main issue with the album arises. ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ is an album that loses a lot of it’s impact through its production. Wether intentionally or not, the guitar work throughout the album seems fuzzy and never truly plays a part in the songs. The same can be said about some aspects of the drumming, and by mixing these with Butler’s numerous simultaneous vocal segments some songs can seem distorted and lose their lucidity I’ve listened to both the high quality YouTube stream and iTunes version via excellent headphones and have been left a little frustrated every time. I won’t be home for a few weeks, but hopefully the vinyl version has more clarity (NB: It does, but still isn’t ideal)

These issues aside ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ is still very, very good, and everything you’d expect from a letlive. album. Songs such as ‘Banshee’, ‘That Fear Fever’ and ‘Empty Elvis’ are fast and heavy whilst featuring trademark vocal hooks and segments of melody. Every song differs from the song following it in a noticeable way, meaning the album never seems flat but is a roller-coaster of a listen. ‘Virgin Dirt’ is a personal favourite, encapsulating everything good about letlive., being varied, heavy, soft and lyrically strong and ultimately memorable. The album focuses on America as a key lyrical theme, also touching on love and other drugs as we’d expect after songs like ‘Day 54’. You’ll hear something new on each play-through, being it a lyric that catches your attention, a background scream you hadn’t noticed previously or a particularly toe-tapping drum beat.

As far as post hardcore releases this year ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ is the one to beat, and truly cements letlive. as the best at what they do. It’s exciting, varied and visceral. Sadly though, the production lets it down massively, at least for me anyway, and as much as I like everything about the album this production issue mars an otherwise brilliant release. For an audiophile like myself it’s a hindrance that I’m coping with but can’t quite get past. It’s a shame because musically letlive. do everything right and tick all the appropriate boxes but it just doesn’t seem complete, despite being very focused and self assured.

However, letlive. have released a great album that demands to be listened to, from the distorted intro of ‘Banshee’ to the spoken word ending of the explosive ’27 Club’. ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ is an album that deserves you’re time and one that will reward it tenfold, if you look past it’s production and mixing issues.

Rating – 8.2/10 (Possible 9.5/10 without sound issues)

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