Letters From The Fire
‘Worth The Pain’
2016 release from Sand Hill Records.
Alexa Kabazie – Vocals. Mike Keller – Guitars. Cameron Stucky – Guitars. Clayton Wages – Bass. Brian Sumwalt – Drums.
Artist location: San Francisco, California, USA.
5 out of 5 stars rating.
Reviewed by David.
- Perfect Life.
- Mother Misery.
- Give In To Me.
- Live A Lie.
- My Angel.
- Last December.
- Holy Ghost.
- At War.
- Worth The Pain.
- One Foot In The Grave.
Well this isn’t a record that would really fall under the guidelines of being melodic rock as it is far more of a modern rock album, though it can still be quite melodious, but to be honest, it just kicks ass no matter what genre it may fall under.
Obviously my main love and interest is the 80’s and modern melodic rock, such as I cover here on the site, but every now and then a record comes along outside of those genres that grabs me and being that this is the first one that has interested me since starting the site I thought why not give it a review and maybe help the band out some by reaching some folks who they may not have otherwise, but who, like myself, may also love it as I am sure that some of you enjoy albums outside of the genre and I thought that perhaps some of you may like this one as well.
Now after that opening then you know this is not going to be my typical style and it only takes one listen to the songs in the links above to realize this is not the usual fare covered here, but I chose to review this one for a couple of reasons.
Number one, it just flat out rocks! No two ways about it. While not an album that could be classified as melodic rock as I said, it is still a damn good album of some excellent modern hard rock by a very talented group of artists and frankly I just love it and it hasn’t left rotation since I picked it up.
Secondly, I have been asked to cover some heavier releases multiple times by several of my readers, so to all of you, here is one you need to go check out. Right now.
And lastly vocalist Alexa Kabazie is a fellow North Carolinian and seeing as how I rarely ever have the chance to review someone from my home State here on my site then I wanted to give this talented gal a shout out here as she has one hell of a great voice and is certainly one of the biggest contributors to my liking this record so much.
Being modern rock, this is not an album that would usually come across my desk or, to be frank, would usually interest me at all. Honestly I don’t even know how this came onto my radar. I was on YouTube and had clicked on something, can’t remember what now, and I saw a video to the right of the screen under the recommended videos for me and the picture shown in the tab had a female with a microphone singing as she stood in front of the drumkit. Now, aside from the usual melodic rock that I will always click on if it so happens that I have never heard of it, then clickbait for me is always a female fronted rock band. From Pat Benatar and Robin Beck, Vixen and Femme Fatale and even to ones like Evanescence and Within Temptation, I have just always loved a really good female fronted project. So, thinking that perhaps like myself, some of my readers may enjoy it as well, I decided to post a review and introduce this band to you all, if you do not know them already, and try to help get their name out there.
So, now that we have all of that out of the way let’s get on with this!
California based hard rock band Letters From The Fire has been around for a few years but due to some difficulties with cementing a working line-up we are just now getting their debut full-length album, though they released an EP, ‘Letters From The Fire‘, in 2015 (very different sounding from this album as it featured a male on lead vocals). And it is a doozy of a debut in my eyes.
The band name, Letters From The Fire, is taken from “the trials and tribulations” of life according to guitarist and band founder Mike Keller, who continues, “these are our stories. This is who we are”. And it shows in the lyrics as they are about real life and certainly about the trials and tribulations of it. Now a brief caveat here, melodic rock is widely known for it’s uplifting and optimistic lyrics, the lyrics contained here are not. They are dark at times and tend to focus on the darker, heartbreaking side of things. Not that there is anything wrong with that as those things are every bit as much a part of life as anything uplifting, in fact at times it seems they are more a part of life. But even so, the music never gets down or depressing and the lyrics are backed by very strong and catchy melodies that ensure that things never get too heavy.
So onward to the music.
Again, this is far more modern then most of what I review here, or listen to at all for that matter, and as it is not a genre I am even close to being as familiar with, I will do my best to do this record the justice it, and the band, really deserves.
First of all let’s talk about the vocals. The lovely Alexa Kabazie has a very strong voice that, while she does not necessarily sound like them, rivals that of Amy Lee (Evanescence) and Lizzy Hale (Halestorm) in sheer power. It is a beautiful, clear and powerful voice and she never sounds anything less than extraordinary here. The songs are written in a way that really showcase her voice, and rightly so as it is certainly a major point of interest for the record and I guess you could say honestly that she is the only reason that I ever gave this band a try.
But I am so glad that I did.
Musically these guys, and gal, fall more in line with the likes of Lacey Sturm (ex-Flyleaf) and Stitched Up Heart, two bands that these guys are actually touring with this year, then anyone else that I personally can think of, though there is a filtering here and there of Evanescence and, as mentioned below, a song that sounds quite a bit like Plumb.
The first three tracks, ‘Perfect Life‘, ‘Mother Misery‘ and ‘Give In To Me‘, are all hard hitting, head banging rockers that start the album off and set the pace for a record that rarely lets up it’s intense pace, though when it does we are left with some beautiful ballads.
Track four, ‘Bruised‘, is a beautiful mid-tempo song that reminds me a lot of something you would hear from a Plumb record. Great song with a fantastic vocal performance.
‘Live A Lie‘ continues on with the heavy tone of the first three songs and leads into ‘My Angel‘, another rocker that is a standout of the album for me.
‘Last December‘ is a terrific track, though lyrically it is very heavy as it speaks of losing someone to drug addiction, and it is one of my favorites. Great melody.
By this point in the record I was excited. Six tracks in and I had liked every one of them, a lot! A real rarity for me with anything in the modern rock genre. I was excited and tense because, as I have said before, anytime I get into any new album, regardless of genre, and have liked every song when I reach the halfway point I start waiting for that inevitable bad track to come on and ruin that streak of perfection.
Well, I am happy to say that it didn’t come in at track seven as ‘Holy Ghost‘ is another fine, fast rock song that picks things right back up to the pace we started the record with and, little did I know, would lead me into my favorite song of the album, ‘At War‘. What a beautiful, piano backed ballad it is, and it features an equally beautiful performance by Kabazie who sounds her absolute best here. Terrific melody and just a great track all around (Click on the link near the top of the page to hear this song and see the lyric video).
‘Control‘ and the title track, ‘Worth The Pain‘, are both loud, fast and heavy songs with the latter being one of the singles released from the record (see the music video by click on the link near the top of the page) and one of my favorite rockers of the record.
‘Scars‘ is another, not quite mid-tempoed track but not as fast and heavy as most of the others. Another standout for me (I feel like I am saying that after every track, but that is just how good they all are!).
The album ends on the same breakneck speed that we started with and have seen through the majority of the album. ‘One Foot In The Grave‘ is probably the weakest track of the album in my opinion, though don’t take that to mean that it is bad because it is nowhere close to being a bad song and I still quite like it.
Now I have reached the end of the album and I am just shocked. Thirteen modern rock songs and nary a one of them is even close to being a dud.
When I clicked on that video a few weeks ago, I never expected to really like whatever the random song I just clicked on was by some band I had never heard of before, but ended up loving it. Once I got the record and popped it in I wasn’t really expecting too much, save from the songs I had already heard on YouTube, but again I loved the entire record. Very much in fact and it quickly made me a huge fan of this band. And it also made me thankful that I had given them a chance.
Now I know that people like different things when it comes to music, and that is fine, we all have our own particular tastes, but I like what I like and that is what I like. I am admittedly one of the worst at being pigeonholed with not branching out on music and being stuck in my genres. But I always try (notice the italics there, lol) to keep an open mind with music. I will always adore melodic rock, it is the greatest music in the world, but I hope I never lose the ability to listen to something outside of that genre and appreciate it when it is good. Had I remained stubborn and not given this album a chance simply because it didn’t fall into “my” genre, then I would have been missing out on a truly great record. This band put their hearts and souls into this album and it shows. It is easily one of the best modern rock albums that I have heard in years. Period.
It is rare that you will see a rating this high on a modern rock record from me, very rare. In fact I think the last one that reached this high of a rating for me was all the way back in 2011 with Within Temptation’s ‘The Unforgiving‘, that is how unusual it is for me to rave about an album outside of melodic rock, but this one highly deserves the accolades, in my opinion, as it is an outstanding album in every aspect. Production is excellent, the band is very talented and are fantastic musicians and really just rock the hell out on the entire album. The songs are well written, hard rocking, catchy and a far cry better than the last efforts from Evanescence or Halestorm, and, as already mentioned, the vocals are phenomenal.
Obviously I realize that this is not going to be for all of you, but for fans of female fronted rock, modern rock and of bands such as Evanescence, Stitched Up Heart, Halestorm, Flyleaf and Lacey Sturm, then do yourself a huge favor and go check them out because I do not believe you will be disappointed.
Very highly recommended.
‘Perfect Life’. ‘
‘Worth The Pain’.