- Open Graves
- Conversations With Fallen Saints
- They Made Me Their War Machine
- A World Of Wicked Men
- The Violence Of Our Kind
- The Greater Hands Of Lesser Sons
- Make Amends
It’s been two years since Letter to the Exiles released their debut album on Strike First Records, and to be honest, I had almost completely forgot about them. The aforementioned record, The Shadow Line, was by no means a bad record, just a smaller record that slipped through the cracks. In fact, it had enough good songs to get me excited to see what these face-melting fellas had cooked up for listeners to enjoy upon getting the email about reviewing the new record, Make Amends.
Make Amends starts off with “Open Graves”, a track that doesn’t take much time before kicking in your teeth with a crushing breakdown behind new vocalist, Chris King’s passionate growling. However, the first thing to really grab my attention was guitarist Mark Randazzo and the intricate riffs he effortlessly slips into the mix. Once I heard this, I knew Letter to the Exiles was more than standard fare in the metalcore scene. “Conversations With Fallen Saints” is the first song where Randazzo unleashes his beautifully powerful pipes. Imagine a combination of Matt Goud (Means) and Stephen Cobucci (Wolves at the Gate), which simply cannot get better. “Conversations With Fallen Saints” also features guest vocals from War Of Age’s very own Leroy Hamp. Hearing the powerful growling of Hamp and King trading off is jaw dropping. “Retribution” shows the band not only has talent to pummel the listeners’ eardrums with distortion, but also to flex their ambient muscles during the bridge. This is right before King induces goosebumps on the listener as he shrieks, “Oh how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”. My favorite track on the album is “They Made Me Their War Machine”. This song is musically all over the place, from straight forward metalcore moments to death metal influence, and will keep the listener interested throughout the duration. “Thieves” has some of the most impressive breakdowns on the record, mixing up the formula of just chugging and adding in some light picking or tapping to add to the complexity.
Throwing a wrench into the works, “A World Of Wicked Men” softly appears. Primarily a bass and drum track with light guitar, “A World Of Wicked Men” is much different than any other track on the album, and offers a welcomed change of pace. King also takes a backseat to Randazzo in this track, doing vocals in the background rather than being in the forefront.
It was after “A World Of Wicked Men” that I became somewhat disappointed with the album. I felt that skill in songwriting and musicianship dropped tremendously. The songs after that point all seemed to run together and seem bland with no particular moment that jumped out at me. I wasn’t noticing any of the interesting guitar runs that had caught my attention so much earlier in the album. On top of that, vocalist Chris King’s voice began to really lack variety, causing the songs to somewhat drag on. With all the talent Letter to the Exiles possess, I expected nothing less than an epic closing track, but instead was let down by the somewhat lackluster, “Make Amends”. Another minor flaw that stood out to me was the production. While there was nothing apparently wrong with it, I felt it could have been beefed up a bit with more bass tones as opposed to treble to make for a more crushing sound.
Overall: Letter to the Exiles delivers very solid metalcore that can both pulverize listeners with crushing breakdowns or leave listeners scratching their heads at the technicality brought forth. This is a CD I know many listeners will find themselves loving, as it provides a little something for every fan of metal. All the issues I found with the record aside, Letter to the Exiles proves they are a band I should never forget again.
RIYL: War Of Ages, Life in Your Way, Means