Review Summary: Yet another incendiary masterpiece has arrived. The Blackest Beautiful is an unforgettable, exhilarating post-hardcore opus that will fulfill your summer.
When Letlive’s seminal, critically acclaimed album Fake History
was unleashed upon the world, I was immediately sold. For starters, Jason Aalon Butler boasted one of the most impressive vocal presences I had ever heard; rife with incredible, guttural screams, powerful inflictions and a sometimes heartfelt delivery that never ceased to resonate. This coupled with shredders Jeff Sayhoun and Jean Nascimento’s insanely infectious guitar work as well as an empowering, "f you” attitude that stemmed throughout the album, conspired to make for an incendiary masterpiece.
Cut to three years later and a well-deserved Epitaph record-signing, Letlive (often stylized as letlive.) is slated to withhold their title as one of the greats within the post-hardcore genre by way of their fourth album The Blackest Beautiful
. The question whether or not Letlive is able to hit another homerun and craft yet another album worthy of being placed in the pantheon of post-hardcore albums is about to be answered.
I think the lyrics that kick-start the album as well as the single “Banshee (Ghost Fame)” answers this question pitch-perfectly:
“We’re here to fulfill every one of your dreams”
Jason, you crazy maniac – you literally have no idea how right you are. I’ve just breezed through the stream of the album, and the only feeling I’m left with is pure, unadulterated euphoria. I don’t think I have ever had such a big smirk on my face in my entire life when listening to an album; every neuron in my head is literally going “hell yes”, “oh my god” and “holy crap". To be perfectly honest, I’m actually on the verge of tears – because not only have the three years that I have spent pining for more Letlive been worth the wait, but with The Blackest Beautiful
they have single-handedly eclipsed each and every single previous effort.
That’s right, this album is better than Fake History
, and I mean it in every conceivable way.
While “Banshee (Ghost Fame)” (the first single released) left a positive impression on me, I wasn’t sure how the album as a whole would stack up to Fake History
in terms of musicianship, lyrical content and delivery. However, when the riff that serves as the adrenaline-pumping intro to the second track “Empty Elvis” assaulted my senses, I was convinced. Letlive is upping the ante – this album is faster, more up-tempo, more in-your-face, and unbelievably catchy as hell.
You thought the choruses to “Homeless Jazz” and “Renegade 86’” from Fake History
Oh, man. You haven’t heard anything yet.
The best way to describe The Blackest Beautiful
with only a handful of words would be to simply call it a far more abrasive, energetic album than Fake History
ever was, which trust me, says an awful lot. From one song to another, I’m left with nothing but goosebumps on top of being consistently amazed by Letlive’s unbelievable attention to detail and diversity. While the choruses on just about every track are masterpieces all on their own (“Empty Elvis”; Holy. Effing. Hell.) Letlive never rest on their laurels. Percussions and spoken-word passages reign supreme on the intro of “White America’s Beautiful Black Market” and then give way to scream-laden verses that will prompt you to bash the hell out of your living room with a baseball bat.
This is further amplified in “Dreamer's Disease” which showcases Letlive’s ability in crafting unforgettable verses and choruses with vigor. This is of course thanks in no small part to Jason’s incredible vocal bravado. His screams are so powerful that they literally almost rip the hinges right off the doors, and yes, the N-word is dropped, curses are spouted with so much impeccable swagger and Jason’s soaring singing ability is ceaselessly impressive.
As for the rhythm section? Tighter and faster than ever. Guitarists Jeff and Jean still trade spine-tingling guitar lines and shred roaring open-note chords furiously. The bass lines of Ryan Johnson still lead each and every single song forward with a solid sense of command and former drummer Anthony Rivera (who left shortly after tracking drums for the album) is still a master at his trade. In other words, the level of talent at display is unmistakable. You won’t find any monotonous “chugga, chugga breakdowns” here at all, which alone is reason enough to give the album a spin.
The paradigm shift moment that arose when listening to Fake History
was the track “Muther” – a powerful and heartfelt track about infidelity, the equivalent here? “Virgin Dirt”, it’s dark and moody, featuring some of the strongest lyrical content ever conceived by the band.
“Love is like a cancer, and sex is just a pill, we’re making love to kill ourselves and ***ing just to think we’ll heal”
Letlive has always had consistently brilliant lyrics that encompass mature and powerful themes, and the band has never decided to shy away from getting their point across – be it if that includes resorting to copious amounts of profanity, something that The Blackest Beautiful
embodies extremely well. The fact is that this effort is darker than ever before. Some of the lyrics have a brooding, eerie feel to them which complements the album’s gritty art cover extremely well.
That being said, the album still maintains the same exhilarating, almost cacophonous sense of speed and intensity evident in Fake History
which rings especially true in “The Priest and Used Cars”, although the album is still diversified through songs which are almost completely devoid of screams and instead lean more towards a groovy, R&B-esque vibe (see "Younger" and "Pheromone Cvlt").
Now, is there any negative criticism that can be leveled towards the album? Well, just like Fake History
the tracks are all structured identically with a scream-laden verse and a meteoric chorus save for “Virgin Dirt” and the stunning closer “27 Club” which feature an odd structuring and experimental elements that change up the soundscape considerably. But in all honesty, it’s damn-near impossible to fault an album like this. Albums this catchy, insanely energetic and indescribably explosive only rear their heads once in a blue moon.
The Blackest Beautiful
is an aural assault that has to be experienced in order to be believed. Ten years from now on, I’m certain we’ll remember this masterfully crafted post-hardcore opus in the same vein we remember At the Drive-In’s Relationship of Command
. After all, I have used the adjectives “Unforgettable”, “Incredible” and “Meteoric” to describe it, and that’s because It’s simply that good.
In other words, the album of your summer has arrived. Blast this at parties; have this masterpiece accompany your travels abroad; let it fulfill your LAN-sessions late into the wee hours. The Blackest Beautiful
simply can’t be missed. Nor should it ever be forgotten.
The Priest and Used Cars
The Dope Beat