Review Summary: Apart from simply perfecting the dichotomous song-structure of traditional hardcore, Letlive demonstrate a frequent desire to experiment and expand the boundaries of what is commonly heard in this genre.
Hardcore is an interesting genre in that it takes unfettered rage and contrasts it with moments of restrained melody. These two disparate elements are so contradictory that their placement together actually helps to mutually strengthen their presence in the song. Letlive have found that sweet-spot with some of the most genuinely aggressive vocals, and paradoxically some of the most melodic hooks, which combine to create the best hardcore album of 2010, and quite possibly one of the best ever. Musically this is what makes Fake History so compelling, as it nearly perfects a genre that, quite frankly, feels muddled at times by bands who cling to the scream-sing formula with no discernible desire to progress or even maintain the genre. However, this is only part of the success Letlive achieve with Fake History as they simultaneously employ anthemic rally-cries with politically charged lyrics and song content. Hearkening back to the punk roots of hardcore and reminding everyone that a stadium full of people can coalesce into an active political machine, while still losing themselves in the pure adrenalin of a roaring guitar riff.
The album begins with “Le Prologue” a steady, brooding, introductory piece which serves as the overture. It thumps along into “The Sick, Sick, 6.8 Billion,” a coarse, strained, battle-cry delivered with great momentum and a chorus which perfectly illustrates the album’s brilliant use of hardcore polarity. Apart from simply perfecting the dichotomous song-structure of traditional hardcore, Letlive demonstrate a frequent desire to experiment and expand the boundaries of what is commonly heard in this genre. “Enemigos/Enemies” incorporates Latin fusion elements, through the steady rocking of the bass, these elements add depth to a song which culminates in a percussion lead chant of: “If we are the faithful living, then we are the grateful dead.” Moments like these litter the album and help maintain the anachronistic sentiments, which ironically solidify this as an album for the discontented masses to unify under. “Over Being Under” blasts out of the speakers, with liberal use of stop-vocals adding accentuation to the screams which pierce through the instrumental cessation. The chorus adds a new dimension to the melody as it softly floats atop the gentle patter of the high-hat. With each song various elements of brutality are explored, there are even several moments of Converge-like breakdowns, but these moments are always answered by an even dizzier melodic counterpart.
Despite all of this catchy, riff-laden songwriting, the structure can be a tad formulaic for some songs. Although, it’s kind of like the formula for KFC: familiar but oh so tasty. “Muther” stands out as an opposing force to this formulaic approach, and is my candidate for song of the year. It is Hardcore’s answer to “Paranoid Android:” a flawlessly structured, moody piece with varied instrumentation and transcendent vocal performances. “Muther” begins with a tortured vocal performance, that is at once restrained and then unexpectedly liberating. The female vocals enter at about the 1:30 mark and remain steady and confident, cooly dismissing the apprehensiveness of the defeated male. The lyrics address issues of sexuality which are then discussed from the opposing points of the female and male vocalists. The song is able to capture the perverted gender roles through these vocal performances, while solidifying the song’s progressive subtleties through the denouements expository tinkling of piano keys, and an assurance from the vocalist that, “we’ll be ok.”
Fake History follows in the footsteps of albums like Mezzanine, Nevermind, or Ok Computer: Letlive have taken everything their genre demands in order to be successful, whether it be virtuosic instrumentation, sincere brutality, political overtones, or memorable and catchy melodies. But while those albums came to define their respective categories, Letlive have actually expanded and changed the landscape of hardcore through songs like “Muther,” with its complicated structure or “Enemies/Enemigos” Latin inspired smoothness. We may be a part of a fake or manufactured history, but Letlive have proven that the only way to change history is to change the rules. We will wait in anticipation of their next album, hoping that history does indeed repeat itself.