I was browsing my Facebook feed on Christmas Eve when I came across a post in the shape of Letters From The Fire’s (LFTF) new song, Worth The Pain. It’d found its way onto my feed due to comparisons to Paramore and Evanescence. Naturally, I checked it out.
The song opens with a crescendo of increasingly heavy electric guitar, something I’d associate with heavy metal. That’s not really my thing so initially, I was sceptical. However, once Alexa’s vocals burst in, I was hooked. What followed was an impressive three minutes of music, anchored through an unapologetic, ridiculously catchy opening to the chorus “Fuck you for killing my faith, thank you for walking away,” to the relatable “Who I am without you makes it worth the pain.” By the time it’d drawn to a close, I was turning over £7.99 to the iTunes store and buying the whole album, also named Worth The Pain.
So, if you don’t know Letters From The Fire, we have Alexa Kabazie on vocals, Mike Keller and Cameron Stucky on guitar, Clayton Wages on bass and Brian Sumwalt on drums. Although this is the band’s first full-length album, it’s more a re-introduction rather than a complete debut. Founded in 2012, the band enjoyed early success in the shape of national tours with Fuel, Trapt, Non Point and Pop Evil, as well as drumming up a few rock radio hits with Zombies in the Sun and a cover of Eleanor Rigby. Though it was Alexa’s arrival that proved the turning point for the band, as founder Mike Keller outlines on LFTF’s facebook page. “We heard about this singer from Kile Odell, this producer we were working with. She was killing it on the demos we heard. We had to fly to North Carolina just to see if she could do it in person. She nailed the audition literally on the first try. Two weeks later, we already had seven songs ready to go. She’s a star in the making.”
It all kicks off with Perfect Life, a track bursting with energy capped with a corker of a solo from Keller, and concludes with the heavier One Foot In The Grave, while the tracklist in between is packed with an impressively diverse mix of songs and forgive me for going holiday commercial voiceover man on you, “There is something for everyone.”
One of the record’s greatest assets, it’s not just an immensely enjoyable listen bristling with fantastic energy. So much of it is relatable. On the band’s Facebook page, Keller says: “The record is full of stories. And this is the first time I really felt something lyrically when we were writing the record. Alexa actually says what she means. Her songs actually have helped me get through a lot of my own personal shit.” There’s multiple tracks I can think of that you could pump out on full volume and just forget the world after a shitty day.
One of the standouts is the slower, rawer, At War. For anyone who’s fallen on rougher times, it’s hard not to relate to powerful, gut-wrenching vocals including “I pray to God for angels he’ll never send”, “I’ve been a solider in every battle but my own”, and “Only surviving never living, I’ve never had a life worth living.”
Give In To Me is another that’s racking up on the play counts, thumping with heavy guitar and oozing with what’s almost a sultry quality. It focuses upon a person with addiction, goading them to “give in to me” as “I was made to set you free, a dose of me is all you need”. It throbs with that energy LFTF have, blends heavy guitar, Kabazie’s vocals and Sumwalt’s pounding drums to terrific effect.
Worth The Pain shifts up and down the gears, blending heavier, more aggressive tracks such as Live A Lie, Worth The Pain and Holy Ghost, boosted by a thumping bass from Wages and male vocals roaring “Wake up”, to impressively, slower tracks such as At War and Bruised, which sums up just how love can suck.
Trekking back to the band’s Facebook page one last time, Keller summarises: “There were times we were so close to giving up and moving on. At the end of the day, it’s been worth the struggle and the fight to do this.” If Worth The Pain is a sign of things to come, it bodes an exciting new beginning for LFTF. I really can’t wait to see what else these guys have up their sleeve.
Worth The Pain twists and turns in ways I didn’t quite expect. From track one to track thirteen, it’s clear that it’s not just Kabazie who is a star in the making. This is a band that could be set for a very bright future indeed. Worth the pain? As my play counts rise by the day, I can tell you it’s worth the purchase.