Living Deäd Lights – Black Letters Album Review

After the successful release of their 2010 Dead Edition EP, a European tour in 2011 and now being taken on by former Guns & Roses manager Doug Goldstein, Los Angeles rockers Living Deäd Lights announce the worldwide release of their debut full album, Black Letters (GB Sound Label).

Living Deäd Lights is singer/guitarist Taka Tamada, originally from Kyoto, Japan, lead guitarist Alan Dämien from Hollywood, bassist Martin Kelly from the Republic of Ireland and drummer Nick Battani from Austin, Texas.

The album is due out 27 January 2014 and will be lead by the first single/video This Is Our Evolution which was released back in November. Alan Dämien explains the story behind This Is Our Evolution: “We all go through so many circumstances that define who we are. Most people have a good idea about what they want in life yet they have no idea how they’re going to achieve it.

“We all get hung up on bad habits, life events and become comfortable in our own skin. This song was written to wake people up and help them find themselves, to learn how to make whatever changes within themselves they need to evolve and move forward.”

Black Letters was recorded at The Hobby Shop Recording Studios in L.A. It’s a collaborative effort by Fred Archambault (Avenged Sevenfold, Deftones), David Spreng (Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper) and Tom Baker (NIN, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie). Living Deäd Lights have an unbending faith in rock n’ roll and Black Letters is hypnotic in its indulgence.

The album consists of twelve songs that hit a pure, raw core of confession. They frame destruction yet leave the audience with a boundless sense of possibility and hope. The riffs are slashing, destructive yet beautiful.

Alan Dämien continued: “Everything is about real life for us…Hopefully we’re able to convey the ideas in a somewhat poetic story format. We want our music to be artistic, intelligent and interesting; to reflect our life experiences or situations. We want people to be able to see themselves in the songs and for our music to help them evolve through whatever situation they’re going through. What’s art without a point?”

Living Dead Lights

Living Dead Lights

Starting track I’ll Be Your Frankenstein is in your face and certainly introduces this band’s rock energy. It starts with crashing drums and screams and this chaos continues throughout the song. The chorus, “I’ll be your Frankenstein….Don’t ever tell me how to think/Don’t ever tell me how to live/You’d better lock your doors and never let me in” portrays Tamada’s ability to sing with the amount of angst that’s needed for this type of rock band. His vocals are gravelly, passionate and energised even if sounding slightly strained. The vocals are on the brink of being screamed rather than sung but this is OK – it suits. I’ll Be Your Frankenstein has been produced in such a way as to build an atmosphere and set a scene. Listening to this song makes you feel like you’re watching part of a movie with the police surrounding a house, talking to the criminal through a megaphone. I’ll Be Your Frankenstein includes the sound of sirens and crackly talking in the background which all adds to the effect.

It’s Drowning In My Veins has a catchy sing-a-long chorus, “Well I’m drowning all the way/Just to hear the children sing/’Cos you drained my heart so where do we go?/Well it’s drowning in my veins/And I’m trying to find a way/’Cos you broke my heart so where do we go?” The angry music and vocals seem to somehow cover up the hurt felt by the singer – it’s as if this band is putting on a hard face by singing aggressively but in fact they are just as vulnerable as the rest of us. Perhaps these are the boundaries they are trying to break down – producing music that everyone can relate to no matter your exterior.

Everybody is more melodic than the previous tracks on Black Letters. It starts with the normal chaotic guitars and drums before simplifying to make the vocals the prominent instrument, “When on holiday medicated/She’s gone crazy/It’s a heartache and a horror show/She’s seen more than you’ll ever want to see…Freak out/Freak out/Everyone says can’t we all love another/Freak out/Freak out/Everyone waits ’til we all start over/All the world and crazy people/In all the world you’d think you’d know that”. The lyrics in this song narrate a heart-wrenching story about love loss in a horrid, dark way. The drums seem to have three stages in this track – during the verses the beat is offbeat, during the pre-chorus the drums break down to build dramatically for the chorus. The drums add variety and layers to this track.

Vacant is the ballad track of the record. It starts with a piano composition before the drums and guitars come in in true Living Deäd Lights style. The chimes in the background introduce drama and depth to this track. The lyrics are interesting as well, “Say what you want to be/And why won’t you let go?/Say what you want to say/I don’t have the time/Don’t tell me you’re God of me/I’m not on your side.” Tamada’s vocals are much softer on Vacant allowing him to show a different side to his talents.

Amerikan Eyes is an anthemic, lighters out song. The beginning lyrics, “Anything we want/Anything we do/Know we got to fight for just one chance/I never wanna choose/Living in the past/Still we should imagine what we can/We’ll remember how to find just who we are/In the shadows of Amerikan eyes.” Amerikan Eyes has elements of Dashboard Confessional in it – the vocals, the pace, the rhythm all leak Dashboard. Once again, Tamada shows the true abilities of his vocals – he shows passion, energy and soulfulness which is sometimes lacking in the heavier rock tracks.

Ghosts & Saints is the last song on Black Letters and is a pleasant surprise, Living Deäd Lights definitely left the best until last. Ghosts & Saints is a completely acoustic number with a slight blues influence. It’s perfect – Tamada’ vocals sound as if someone else has stolen the microphone. There are breath-taking harmonies blended with beautifully crafted guitar riffs and percussion.

Living Deäd Lights have produced a fantastic, energetic and solid debut album. There is angst, anger and aggression on most of the tracks – they really do seep rock out of every pour of their bodies but some of the songs do sound similar. It can be hard to distinguish when one song ends and another begins. They could do with a bit more variety. That’s why tracks like Vacant, Amerikan Eyes and Ghosts & Saints really stand out on Black Letters because they start in a different way from the rest of the songs which burst straight through the speakers with full drums, bass and guitar.

Living Deäd Lights accept no boundaries. Thunderous, stirring, melodramatic, always compelling, they have chosen to follow the seductive path of their instinct while preserving the vital spark of individuality that sets them apart.

Black Letters will be released on 27 January 2014.

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