“Your love letter’s a kill shot,
tearing through my soul til nothing’s left.”
The line feels like a contradiction of terms: how could love and death exist in the same breath? That question defines the new Disciple album Love Letter Kill Shot, their 12th studio album and first release in full partnership with Tooth & Nail Records.
With two exceptional albums already under their belts (Attack and Long Live the Rebels), it’s immediately apparent that the current Disciple lineup has fully found their footing with Love Letter Kill Shot. That lineup consists of Kevin Young (vocals), Josiah Prince (guitar), Joey West (drums), and Andrew Stanton (guitar). They have mastered the ability to stretch themselves forward as artists while still honoring the eras of Disciple that have come before them. That ownership of this era comes in part due to more of the production load being shouldered by Josiah Prince, who worked with longtime Disciple producer Travis Wyrick to create the final product.
Where this album references the past, it does so in a way that takes the best we’ve heard from Disciple and hones in on it. The way Kevin Young spits the verses on “Play to Win” and “Never Too Late,” for example, is likely to bring some listeners back to songs like “Game On,” “Rise Up,” or even as far as “Back Again.” The intricate, clear-toned guitar on songs like “Walk With Me” are reminiscent of albums like Scars Remain or Southern Hospitality. But those classic elements are elevated, reimagined through a production perspective that rubs shoulders with progressive metal, a direction fans heard first with the dynamic single “Cuff the Criminal.”
One thing that instantly sets this album apart from the past several is that there is no true ballad. Love Letter Kill Shot is hard and heavy early on with “Reanimate,” and although not all of the album maintains that level of ferocity, you certainly should not expect many long breaks from an impulse to headbang. That musical intensity is delivered with finesse, offering stand-out guitar solos as well as resounding riffs.
The heaviness feels absolutely deliberate as it pairs with tremendous thematic weight. As a band that self-professes evangelism as their core ethic, Disciple has always been intensely focused on bringing light into dark places. Love Letter Kill Shot maps the geography of those dark places more than any album before.
“Wake Up” screams in desperation to someone numbed out by suicidal depression: “wake up, wake up / for the love of God, please hear me screaming / your eyes are open, but I know you’re asleep at the wheel / and the road is ending.” A hurricane of guitar feeds the near-frantic urgency of the vocal delivery. “Panic Room” gives voice to the darkest, cruelest parts of all of us, the terrible desire for power over others, power over life itself. This track is a musical masterpiece, every production element building on the eeriness. “Sometimes I scare myself,” the song admits before a guest feature from Andrew Schwab (Project 86) explodes into the tormented chorus:
“I try to lock these thoughts inside a tomb
But it ends up being my panic room
When the demons start digging up skeletons
The ghosts leave me with nowhere to run.”
That level of anguish can become familiar, beginning to feel like home– and that is exactly the situation that “Misery” acknowledges. In what might be the strongest, punchiest melody on the whole record, Kevin Young sings the confession “I don’t want help, I don’t want to get better, all I want is your sympathy.” There is an almost uncomfortable level of honesty to the acknowledgment that all of us have the capacity to worship our hurt, to sabotage our own potential for healing. That place of discomfort continues on “Chemical Wisdom,” a song which recognizes the dangers of trying to numb out and medicate away pain without addressing the root dysfunctions.
In short, many of these songs are looking at the habits and mindsets that create death: death in our spirits, death in our relationships, death quite literally when the specter of our suicidal thoughts takes hold. But this is the great mystery of Love Letter Kill Shot, of the incarnate Jesus Christ dying on a cross: the only way we overcome death is through death itself dying. When we’re walking into a tomb, we can know Love went first, Love goes with us still, and Love is the kill shot that executes death.
This brings us back to the lyric at the start of this review, the soul-searing words that begin “Fire Away:” “Your love letter’s a kill shot, tearing through my soul ’til nothing’s left.” The song is strikingly vulnerable, like throwing your arms open in surrender, trembling, inviting God to kill all the destructive cycles in your soul– no matter what it takes.
It’s easy for many veterans of Christian music to get overly familiar and flippant about what redemption actually feels like. Disciple does not fall into that trap, charging unflinchingly into the unmaking that must precede new life. “Reanimate” is a visceral reminder that if forgiveness from Jesus is for anything at all, it’s for everything– for the sickest sins imaginable. “Never Too Late” declares a truth that answers many of the songs that come before it:
“I know the places you’ve been,
I know the shame that is suffocating you.
It’s never too late to start again,
it’s never too late if you’re breathing.”
The end of the album brings the listener into the light that exists on the other side of love’s kill shot. “Touch of Pain” is a slightly softer moment musically, beautifully answering songs like “Misery” with a reminder that there’s a way out of the addiction to pain. “Best Thing Ever” feels almost cinematic in musical scope, encapsulating the whole journey that has come before it while sharing the experience of walking hand-in-hand with Love Himself– an experience that makes all the darkness worth it.
“You are the best thing that has ever happened to me
and I am Yours, forever Yours.”
There have been a lot of Disciple albums released before, and if you enjoyed them, you will absolutely enjoy Love Letter Kill Shot too. But rest assured: this is an album unlike any of the others. Love Letter Kill Shot is musically and thematically heavy, it’s inventive while still being absolutely in keeping with Disciple’s identity, and it offers a lifeline of solidarity to listeners. These songs shy away from easy answers, choosing instead to simply walk beside the listener into the grave itself– and out the other side.
You can find all preorder options for Love Letter Kill Shot at disciple.ffm.to/llks.