Published Jun 09, 2016On their latest record, If I'm the Devil…, Los Angeles hard rockers letlive. have cultivated a more subdued sound than fans are probably used to. In the band's press release, vocalist Jason Butler claims that "I feel we've spent years developing the idea that is letlive. and with this record I feel we have finally developed the SOUND that is letlive." The band's fourth studio LP is a decidedly more mature release, but their message of community and defiance remains fervent.
Introduction "I've Learned To Love Myself" starts the album with solemn guitar picking, with Butler's distinctive voice and poignant lyrics in its wake. Eventually, the song builds up in orchestral fashion, playing with a mix of heavy distorted guitar and classical strings. "Nü Romantics" begins as a danceable alt-rock track, but slowly, the band show their post-hardcore roots by slowing things down at the end. "Good Mourning, America" has a school-shooting sound clip at the beginning, followed by what sounds like a young choir of girls calling out unjust police killings. The instrumentals bring in a very western vibe, backed by a driving bass riff; the song gets consistently heavier until its finale. "Foreign Cab Rides" is a cathartic ballad, but it's followed by "Reluctantly Dead" and "Elephant," both solid songs that unfortunately feel formulaic within the record.
The track with the worst title proves to be the redeemer. Released as a single ahead of the album, "Another Offensive Song" is the crass energy from the band we were expecting. It's got a fast-paced, early hardcore sound that hits heavy lows equivalent to the band's previous releases. I mistook the name for meaning offense to the general public, but it's an attempt to offend the offenders, which is easier to get down with. Particularly effective are the closing lines: "Stoke the fire, I dare you / Kill me off / This movement can't be stopped."
The title track grow from a slow-burner into an epic rock song, but the conclusion, "Copper Colored Quiet," is a flaccid ending to the record. A walking bass line, rim tapping and more orchestral string effects accent the soft song, but it's not strong enough to impress.
Much of letlive.'s If I'm the Devil… is impressively composed and attempts to appeal to a wider audience, but oddly, it doesn't sound all that different from their previous work, other than a lack of power throughout. Butler's pipes remain undeniably mind-boggling, but they're mostly clean throughout, and instrumentally, there's nothing really groundbreaking here.
Don't get me wrong; it's an interesting foray into their headspace, but certainly less eccentric and maybe just a bit too easily digestible. (Epitaph)