- The Abandoning
- Whip It
- Watching the Bottom Fall
- By the Way
- My Disaster
- I W8 4 U (feating Mattie Montgomery of For Today)
- Fading Away
Love and Death’s debut album is something of an anomaly. While it is very common for a band to develop a following for a few years prior to releasing an actual album, very few spend that same time in the spotlight. Typically, while a handful of people will have heard the band or their songs, the debut album is something new to most. Love and Death, however, have been in the spotlight from day one. In fact, they have had the opposite issue that most bands starting out face. Rather than start in obscurity to the listening world, many people have already been exposed to some of the tracks on this album for some time.
In fact, the band put out their Chemicals EP last year… featuring a small number of tracks also featured on this album. When I spoke to Brian “Head” Welch (lead singer) recently, he told me this was the plan all along. For most bands, it takes years to even get the industry to notice you before fans or record labels will invest in what you have to offer, although this model is drastically changing due to technology. Love and Death, on the other hand, became instantly recognized the moment they formed due to Head’s past life as a founding member of KoRn, national-headline-stealing conversion to Christ, and subsequent release of his solo album Save Me From Myself. The problem for L&D became establishing themselves as a “new” band and not merely as “Head plus some other guys.” So, while I wish the entire album was new material, it made sense when Head told me that the EP (and songs released as singles since) was to get people used to the band as a new entity in music. Think of this as “Love and Death: Phase One.” Just as Marvel introduced the world slowly to its characters and then unleashed them together in The Avengers, Love and Death took some time to introduce the world to their “new brand” and this album is the culmination of that process.
Despite this newness, it’s hard not to feel like Love and Death is still a bit of an extension of Head’s past works. But that’s not a bad thing! I agree with him when he says that this album is something of a culmination of where he has been and where the band is going. Technically, the sound the band works with is labeled “Nu-Metal” by those who grew up listening to KoRn and all the many copycat bands that followed their lead (pun intentional). The guitars are grungy, the drums are fast-paced, and the vocals move between growly and smooth, but these elements do not come together to make one more band that sounds like As I Lay Dying, so as to move them into the plethora of “hardcore” genres out there today. What you’re getting with Love and Death really is building off of Brian’s life in KoRn, but it mixes with some new elements and styles that the rest of the band brings. So, if you were to pull up KoRn’s discography and compare it to Love and Death’s debut album, you’d certainly see some similarities, but, along with those similarities comes growth as well.
Because of all of this, the final product ends up giving you that same feeling you get when you run into an old friend you haven’t seen in years. They’re still fundamentally the same person, but the more time you spend with them, the more you start to see how life has changed them along the way. In that same line of thinking, Between Here and Lost gives you that familiar feeling that makes you comfortable, but soon begins to start showing you how this is not just “Head plus some other guys.” And the final product is a well balanced heavy album that brings the past and the present together into one head-bangingly worthy addition to any hard music lover’s collection.
The album starts off strong with “The Abandoning.” Within the first five seconds that familiar KoRn vibe becomes apparent, but as the song progresses you start to hear where the band makes it more and more their own. Lyrically, “The Abandoning” is our first taste of the dominant themes that run throughout the album. As Brian starts singing “Master, master, save me… don’t give up on me now, because that’s what I’ve already done” you start to see threads of themes such as devotion to Christ, the battle with past sins and regrets, and a new assurance and hope for the future. Even the title of the album echoes this sentiment. Notice that it is “between” here and lost.
“Whip It,” the band’s cover of Devo’s 80’s classic follows. To save space, I’ll not go in depth on the songs I’ve already commented on in my review of the Chemicals EP. It should be noted, however, that “Whip It,” “Paralyzed,” and “Chemicals” are all fantastic songs. Of these, fans are likely most familiar with “Paralyzed,” which Brian released as a single under his own name some time before the band came together. You can see in my explanation above as to why it actually made some reasonable sense for the band to include these tracks. Not only are they powerful songs, but this album is a culmination of the band’s first chapter, rather than the beginning of it. As such, these three songs represent some of the band’s best offerings.
“Watching the Bottom Fall” is a catchy song with a powerful hook and some strong riffs that explores that moment in time when everything falls apart between people. The line “I don’t have energy for you. I don’t have energy to see this through,” is an intimate look at that moment in any relationship where a crossroads is reached. “By The Way,” one of the most touching songs on the record, examines the role of death in life. Head told me it was inspired by several recent loses he has personally faced, as well as the many fans who have shared heart-wrenching stories with him. “By the Way” joins (in my book at least) The Showdown’s “Laid to Rest,” Blindside’s “Where the Sun Never Dies,” and Demon Hunter’s “Carry Me Down,” (possibly even Project 86’s “From December”) as one of the most comforting songs to listen to when grief strikes. Musically, this is as close to a power ballad as Love and Death gets, but even then it is on the heavier side of the “ballad” category.
“Meltdown” and “My Disaster” are up next. I group these two together because the themes and stylings are very similar. “Meltdown” continues to bring heavy guitars, skillful drum work, and the dichotomy between smooth singing and gruff outbursts of sonic power. Thematically, it explores those moments when we feel on the edge of sanity. The clincher to the song (situated close to the middle), however, points to the way in which Christ has met us in our darkest hour. Here Brian states, “Over and over in my head, I see your scars. Remember the day when we first met. Take me back.” “My Disaster” begins with a nice long and melodic musical interlude before jumping into the theme of feeling lost as everything crashes down around you. Here the point of hope comes as Brian repeats the problem of life falling apart, but simply states, “but I’ll make it through.” Here, the deepest trails we face are brought before Christ as Brian says that he comes to appreciate “the pain that leads me to You.” Both “Meltdown” and “My Disaster” will resonate well with those who feel lost, alone, and looking for hope. To the band’s credit, the problems are not undermined in order to get to the hope. Both are experienced (sonically) in such a way that the listener moves through that journey with them.
The song people will likely be talking the most about (already are) when they hear it is “I W8 4 U.” Let’s just get it out of the way here, Mattie from For Today adds that “X-factor” to everything he touches. This song is no different. And, while it is Brian who is the veteran in this equation, Mattie’s power and intensity simply infuse “I W8 4 U” with a new sort of power. When talking about the song with Brian, he told me the unfortunate thing is that the band is going to have to attempt Mattie’s part when playing it live. Once you hear the song and hear Mattie come in with a guttural “fed up” and just bottom it out, you’ll understand how that could be a point of concern for them. Overall, the song blends L&D’s style and Mattie’s vocals in beautiful and powerful ways. Brian called this the heaviest song he’s ever done. I tend to agree. The theme of the song is waiting for someone who has fallen (is falling?) and being their for them, but just needing to tell them to get off their butt and make something happen. It is a song for people who have a bond or a connection and trust one another enough to speak the truth. This also explains the terrible text-speak style used in naming the song. It’s about being there for someone intimately close and fighting for them even when they’ve stopped fighting for themselves.
“Fading Away” has the unenviable job of following “I W8 4 U.” Luckily, it is another solid track. For some reason, I got a strong Demon Hunter vibe while listening to this track. That is, of course, ironic considering Demon Hunter has a song entitled “Fading Away.” L&D’s “Fading Away” doesn’t sound like DH’s, but the overall atmosphere just felt like it wouldn’t be out of place on a DH album. In a further bit of irony, the lyrical theme behind L&D’s track does seem very similar to DH’s “Undying,” as it seems to tackle the issue that we are but a vapor in this world that is fading into eternity.
Just as the album opened strongly with “The Abandoning,” it closes strongly with “Bruises.” Like many of the tracks before it, “Bruises” takes an intimate look at the pain we often go through in life. “Show us how to live. How do we forgive? Through the bitterness, how do we get there?” This song feels like the culmination of many of the past tracks. As a musical journey, everything leads to “Bruises,” and it does not disappoint. “Show us how to live…show us how to die, how to give our lives. living sacrifice. How do we get there?” The track is much softer than the others that it follows. Piano work can be found throughout. The whole experience and soundscape works to bring the listener before the throne. However, the song never answers the questions posed in it. This is intentional. While it would have been great (especially considering the many many KoRn fans while will likely buy this album) to have an evangelism track or something like it at the end of the song… that’s not the end game. The end game is, in my opinion, to bring the listener to the point where they’re finally willing to ask the right questions. Too many times in our faith we live like we have the answers… this song reminds us what we need is the right spirit before God, and the willingness to keep seeking. In all, “Bruises” reminds me of many of the Psalms of David. David wasn’t afraid to share his pain with God. Neither is Love and Death. David asked the right questions, and was open to hearing God. It’s my prayer that many hear God through this work and begin by asking the right questions about our pain and trials in life.
Overall: Love and Death builds off of Brian’s signature “KoRn” sound and adds new layers into the mix. Fans of this breed of metal, or of Brian’s past work on his own or in KoRn, should have no doubts in making this a day one purchase. Mattie Montgomery’s guest appearance alone makes this one pre-order worthy. The album is extremely solid from start to finish. Lyrically, the album focuses on the hurts, pains, and regrets of life, but points to the source of new life and forgiveness of past mistakes. If there is one detraction, it’s that true fans will have heard several of the songs before, especially those on the Chemicals EP. Rather than knock the band for the choice to “culminate Love and Death phase one,” however, it is important to note that each of those songs does have a snug fit into the overarching theme and flow to the album. So, in the end, the overall product is made stronger for their inclusion. Even if it is not breaking new ground, Love and Death’s Between Here and Lost deserves your attention… and it will grab it and hold on to it as soon as the album begins.
RIYL: KoRn, Brian “Head” Welch, For Today, Project 86