For four long years, fans have wondered if there would be more music from The Letter Black. With their signing to Rockfest Records in 2020, many were ecstatic, and the anticipation for what they’d be putting out grew.
The wait is finally over for fans, as their self-titled album drops on August 6, 2021.
As a band that has been on the music scene since the 2010s with each release seeing an expansion of their hard-rock sound, The Letter Black has a firm grasp on what their aim is as a band. Their message is delivered with a confidence that reverberates through the instrumentation. With topics ranging from family dysfunction, helplessness apart from God, and the hope that can be found in Him, this album packs a punch reinforced by the faith of the band.
The band hasn’t lost any of their edge, as evidenced by Sarah Anthony’s searing vocal performance on the album opener “Rise,” as well as the consistency of “One More Time” and “Kiss of Death.” But they have definitely continued to push the envelope of what their sound is. With the addition of some electronic elements as well as two amazing guest features (courtesy of rapper Blake Whiteley on “Drowning” and Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Krutch on “Born For This”), The Letter Black holds to their tenacity and vigor while effortlessly blending the electronic into the mix.
As for the guest features, these are features as they’re meant to be: not just a verse, or a bridge, but a song fully shared with the band. While many props need to be given to Trevor McNevan for his feature (seriously, everything that guy does is solid), the most surprising moment of the album has to be the feature of Blake Whiteley. “Drowning” is arguably the most “different” sounding track for The Letter Black, sounding more like something you’d expect to hear from nu-metal Rockfest label-mates Relent. But they pull it off flawlessly, and a big part of that is Whiteley’s apparent comfort on a rock track. The beat selection in the verse is smart and melds into the chorus so naturally. The nu-metal influence is palpable on this track, and to have Blake, Sarah, and Mark all singing at various points brings a completeness to the song that feels incredibly fulfilling. As a song that explores the necessity of letting God be in control, the vulnerability in Blake’s verses is fascinating:
“Heartache, oh God, I need surgery,
‘cuz everything in my head was just hurting me.
Hoping they hear you,
it doesn’t matter if they heard me.”
“Tomorrows” is a track that holds such an interesting place on the album. Serving as the ballad of the album, opening with drum-machine beats and a synthesized lead, it is another wonderful example of The Letter Black’s ability to take their sound to new avenues. The chorus returns listeners to familiar territory with Mark and Sarah Anthony sharing vocal responsibilities (seriously, it is so good to hear the two of them singing together again). There is an amazing surrender felt throughout this song in the lyrics. For every bleak moment described, they are countered with the chorus that asserts, “I won’t fall today, and I won’t fall tomorrow / Because I know the One who lets me walk on water / And even if I sink, I will not go under / Because the One who made me holds all of my tomorrows.” It is a beautifully done chorus in a beautifully done track.
The experimentation with the electronic elements continues strong in “Let You Go,” a track that sees Sarah getting very narrative in the lyrics. Serving as a foundation, the verses tell of the struggle many children in broken and dysfunctional families deal with. It is the perfect way to set up the chorus, which provides the needed encouragement by ensuring that those who identify with the verses understand that they are not alone. It was smart to place this track immediately after the uplifting and God-pointing “Tomorrows,” as the message from that track should be fresh in the minds of those listening to this one.
While the middle of the album is replete with experimentation unheard of in previous work from The Letter Black, the last few tracks bring back their signature hard-rock sound. “Unbreakable” has a southern rock flare to its riff that would have fit well within their first two albums. “Lost Remembered” serves as a solid youth anthem: “We’re young, but we’re strong enough / Can’t give up ’till it’s done, we’ll turn this dark world around… / Let this generation rise.”
As defiant as some of the other tracks have been, such as “Rise” and “Born For This,” the angriest track has to be “Throwing Darts.” It’s a bold and in-your-face track stating “I’ve got your picture on my wall, and I’m throwing darts. I’m aiming straight for your heart“.
“Born For This” closes out the album. As one of the lead singles, it gave a glimpse at what the band was going to put forth. As mentioned previously, Trevor McNevan’s feature in this track is epic. It was really interesting to see The Letter Black’s philosophy towards guest features, allowing them more than just a verse or bridge. Trevor plays a prominent role on this track, and it is such a joy to hear him in a new song.
It’s a nice bit of symmetry to close the album with a song that is almost a mirror to the opener. Whereas “Rise” was all about the refusal to back down and move on from our past, “Born For This” is an insistence that the life we’re living is the one we were born for. Good or bad, what we endure makes us who we are.
“Take me as I am, ‘cuz I was born for this, born for this
You could never shake me where I stand
‘Cuz I was born for this, born for this.”
When we know who we are (“Feels like a driving force that’s deep inside / There’s not a chance that you’ll change me“), we are truly unshakable.
It is clear that the partnership between Rockfest Records and The Letter Black is a strong one. This self-titled album is proof that this band knows what it is doing— even when they’re trying new things, they do it with control and consistency. Be sure you don’t miss this release!