Letter Kills is one of the three bands that I started listening to after being introduced to them by the Nintendo Fusion Tour of 2004, along with AnBerlin and Autopilot Off. It’s the only one of those three that I still listen to regularly. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend any of tour’s shows that came close to here, but that’s another story altogether. Today, it’s a CD review for you.
As I was saying, I started listening to Letter Kills pretty recently, and with just cause; they’re a relatively new band. The album in question happens to be their debut, so it’s not like there was a band to follow before the release. Anyway, I didn’t listen to them a whole lot right away. I downloaded a couple songs to see what they were all about, and wasn’t too keen on the band. This happens a lot, I find, and predictably enough I listened to ’em again a couple months later. Now we have a reaction.
I think the foremost reason that I didn’t get into Letter Kills on the first try is because of one song: “For the Weekend.” It’s a slow acoustic song, and of a lower quality than most would appreciate. But when I listened to it for the first time in so long, I realized that it’s actually rather well-written (cliche as it may be) and a little touching. Then I listened to the song I’d never bothered with the first time around, entitled “Lights Out.” This is where our story truly starts.
As the first track on The Bridge, “Lights Out” does an impeccable job of hooking the listener. It’s hard, fast, and powerful. You’ll get more or less the whole Letter Kills experience with this song, but that’s no reason not to keep on listening. Follow-up songs “Don’t Believe” and “Whatever it Takes” keep the pace up well and are composed of some sweet riffs and great singing. The former even features some intense guitar soloing that will seal the deal if “Lights Out” alone didn’t make you want to listen to the rest of the CD.
“Brand New Man” takes the speed and power down a notch, and relies on more of a beat to get by than hardcore guitar work, but does it really well. “Clock is Down” also sacrifices speed, but brings the melody to the forefront, and sports a snazzy of not emotional chorus that takes the song from slow to hard rock. “Time Marches On” brings back the hard rocking sound of the first few songs, but has a feeling all to its own, as it’s got a slower yet stronger beat and blurs the line between metal and rock. “Carry You” does kind of a flip-flop and has pretty intense verses while the chorus feels a bit slower (though in reality, it isn’t).
“Hold My Heart (Part Two)” is where it really gets interesting. When you first look at the track list and see that part two comes before part one, you’re gonna be wondering what’s up. Upon listening to it, you’ll realize that even if the placement is a little unorthodox, this could be plainly used as a closing sequence to the first part. It does seem more like an opener though…
“When You’re Away” is in the running for my favourite song. It’s easily got the strongest case, but I’m still on the fence. You have to listen to this song at a high volume, or else the awesomeness of it is all lost. There’s a lot of feeling in this song, and the powerful chorus nearly makes it a shoe-in for the top spot. “Radio Up” is essentially your run-of-the-mill rock song, but it’s really good at what it does. “Shot to the Chest” is another one of those slower-verse/power-chorus types, but it does keep up the level of kickassery towards the second half of the song. Also worthy of mention is that it features a good amount of screaming, which I think lead singer Matt Shelton pulls off really well. He never overdoes it, and it never gets in the way of the lyrics.
Finally, “Hold My Heart (Part One)” is your token slow finisher, and boy does it git ‘er done. Not only does it have a lot more heart (har har) than most rock bands display in their slow songs, but surprisingly enough, the backing vocals have just as big a part as the lead vocals in making the song as touching as possible. Token it may be, but it’s certainly worth far more than the term implies.
I read in a couple other reviews that Letter Kills is actually composed of devout Christians, and if that’s cause for worry for you, forget it. The songs don’t directly reflect it, and you’d have to look pretty deeply into the subtext for anything that might hold religious value. In any case, they’re more or less your standard punk/rock band that plays a slightly above-par game. There’s not a lot special here, but I can’t in good conscience tell you that you could just as well skip over ’em. I’ve searched high and low for the disc, but no such luck, so chances are that you’re going to have to go the download route too. Let’s just hope they’re not another Span and their second album doesn’t wind up being mediocre and borderline boring.
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