Imagine if Papa Roach had decided to take equal influence from Guns n Roses and The Germs. Then, imagine that instead of meeting in their hometown, they came from all corners of the world. Toss in a few umlauts and a better dress sense and you have Living Dead Lights.
Don’t take that as anything derogatory, though. Their debut album Black Letters is a big, no-fucks-given rock record and in that, it’s completely genius. On the surface, it’s not overtly clever – lyrically, it’s your typical hard rock cheese in places – but dig deeper and you’ll find cheeky references to horror legend, extraordinarily tight musicianship and an unashamedly irresponsible take on modern rock music. Glorious.
It’s hard not to revel in the sheer indulgence of Black Letters. Although to begin with, it’s rather misleading. ‘I’ll Be Your Frankenstein’ is littered with a ‘one-two fuck-you’ punk attitude, loads of screaming and really fast drums. However, it becomes apparent with lead single ‘This Is Our Evolution’ that the 90s power ballad isn’t dead yet and rock ‘n’ roll parading becomes the order of the day. The record as a whole is bold and brash, simultaneously taking cues from American rock stars and the over-the-top (but frankly incredible) Japanese music scene. ‘Vacant’, for example, chucks in a load of piano and bells over some serious rock riffs – in theory, it’s completely ridiculous, but it works so well.
Working with Fred Archambault, David Spreng and Tom Baker has no doubt had some influence on that – tying together some big producers, who have worked with some big rock and metal bands, is bound to have some kind of impact on the sound. However, what it doesn’t account for is tracks like ‘Hey Stranger!’ which could be just as easily taken off a Die Hunns album were it not for the rock ballad in the middle section, or closer ‘Ghosts and Saints’, which is a country-inspired acoustic tale of loss. What I admire about this record is that Living Dead Lights are not afraid to bring it all to the table, and in doing so, it totally pays off.
Pick up Black Letters if you’re after something fun to kick-start your New Year with. This is rock in its purest sense, injected with punk’s reckless abandon and infused with a well-deserved notion of grandeur.
4 out of 5 high fives!