By Danielle Partis
As a self professed and arguably pretentious 80s metal head, I approached Letters From A Stranger’s new EP (Apologies Mean Nothing) with the cynical old fashioned eye of a bitter heavy metal fan with little tolerance for this new breed of sub genre, known as Metalcore. Determined not to enjoy this record, I shut myself away from all distraction, and set my full attention to what was about to penetrate my mind.
The EP opens up with an interesting blend of keyboards and drums, and instruments are added one by one, until an aggressive yet melodic piece is going. This is the sort of track you’d half expect to hear behind a montage of Halo game play. It’s enjoyable; an attention grabbing build up into the EP, but I was asked to credit the band’s producer Mikey Scott, as he wrote the Intro.
The lead guitar takes us right off the intro of the first track, ‘When You Fall, Don’t Come Back’. Even for someone who knows more about the production of Ammonia than Metalcore, the song is easily distinguishable. The track is angsty and malevolent, with low chugging chunky sounding guitars – the audio representation of a really bad hangover. Like almost every other song in this genre, there’s a gut wrenching breakdown where the solo should be, but this is hardly a bad thing.
Everything becomes a lot more intense and rapacious with the next track, ‘Cowards Preying on the Weak’. Here the band starts to demonstrate their diversity. Guitarists Chris and Chelsea really excel on this one, displaying technicality with dual guitar parts, synonymous with bands such as Avenged Sevenfold. Front man Jamie also switches vocal styles, performing a typically whiny yet well kept clean verse, followed by the breakdown. It’s almost an accidental lapse, as if he momentarily thought he was singing in the shower rather than the studio. It’s a shame they didn’t use clean vocals more often throughout the EP.
Track four, ‘Changing Tides’ isn’t as impressive as the prior, in fact, I personally found it quite irritating to be brutally honest. Jamie is back to his usual, lung wrenching grunting self, a style he portrays well. Although I may not particularly enjoy this way of singing, I really cannot fault it. Drummer Steve is brought out of the shadows on this song too, with some compelling drum beats.
The final track, and the title track ‘Apologies Mean Nothing’ is the most ferocious song on the EP, and the most complex. It opens in a similar way to all the other songs, and explodes into a pugnacious combination of inaudible grunts, crunchy guitars and blast beating. I absolutely love the chorus, it’s melodic, and it sets the band apart from those who try, and those who succeed to excel in this genre. The album comes to an abrupt close, and for a moment I’m left in awe.
One thing I cannot dispute is the fact that this band is a collection of young, very able musicians. The performance on the record is impeccable, and it’s produced extremely professionally. There’s no doubt in my mind that Letters From A Stranger will earn their primitive place on Hull’s metal scene, if not further afield, because they definitely do have the talent and ability to do so. Even if you’re not a Metalcore fan, or just prefer to be blissfully negligent of the entire genre, I would definitely recommend just giving it a listen, as I’m now going to go away and reassess my approach to a genre of music I was once insulted by.
Devil Horns Rating: \m/ \m/ \m/ \r