|Reborn from Death | Posted January 28, 2013
The conversion of iconic guitarist Brian "Head" Welch and his subsequent departure from the '90s hard rock act Korn has become one of the most powerful and widely retold testimonies of the past decade. The artist made musical waves again in 2008 when he released an experimental solo album to the Christian market, retaining the nu-metal angst vibe while crafting lyrics reflecting his journey from death to new life.
A year later he had gathered a group of strong musicians as touring support, and by 2012 the ensemble (featuring Michael Valentine on bass, JR Bareis on guitar and Dan Johnson on drums) was officially branded Love and Death and signed to Tooth & Nail records.
Between Here and Lost is Love and Death's highly-anticipated first release as a full band. With some hard-won experience, a full band at his back, and an exceptional writing and production team, Head's songwriting has the opportunity here to reach its full potential. The resulting album sounds much more established and confident than precursor Save Me From Myself, though without losing any of the raw power and scalding honesty that gave the solo release its strength.
Previously-released via YouTube, "The Abandoning" serves as a note of familiarity for a solid opening. The clean guitar tone backs frantic vocals reaching from a place of despair, begging God not to leave. The haunting chorus implores "Master, Master, save me / Master, Master, kill me / Don't give up on me now, ‘cause that's what I've already done."
"Whip It" (previously heard on the band's Chemicals EP) follows as a call to step outside of your head and the addictions that hold you trapped, with crushing guitars lending urgency to the lyrics.
"Watching the Bottom Fall" pulls heavily on Head's initial '90s nu-metal influences, with a chilling vibe that lends the song intensity. "By The Way..." uses a sharp, chopped guitar bed to introduce a deeply vulnerable song about a relationship in bitter disarray. The hard-edged verses are countered by the much more melodic chorus, regretfully declaring, "and by the way, I'm doing alright / You don't know what I had to give to walk away." The following selection, "Meltdown," begins with a quick spoken sound bite before a massive guitar riff sweeps in to carry the rest of the song.
Although the guitar work on the entire album is solid, "My Disaster" is perhaps the best example of Head's experience and skill in crafting an entire environment with guitars, realized now with the aid of Love and Death's lead guitarist JR Bareis. The buzzing rattle of the intro is later layered with rich, brutal riffs, buoying up Head's straightforward, in-your-face vocals. The song is a wounded reflection on feelings of betrayal and abandonment.
"I W8 4 U" may have a deceptively simplistic title, but the song itself is anything but forgettable. Mattie Montgomery of For Today lends his growls to complement Brian Head Welch's, creating the perfect storm of brutal vocals and crunchy guitars. "Fading Away" is a beautiful example of taking a traditional metal and hardcore theme and touching it with the perspective of the redeemed, exploring and establishing humanity's mortality but acknowledging eternity.
"Paralyzed" is another selection previously from the Chemicals EP. The song (which was a collaboration with Jasen Rauch, formerly of RED) explores the way sin paralyzes while recognizing the need for a rescuer. This selection showcases industrial elements more strongly than the other tracks. "Chemicals" also explores the corroding nature of our vices, employing drug-oriented imagery to express themes of addiction. Given Head's history before the transformation that came when He chose to surrender to Christ, he has certainly earned the credibility to sing vulnerably about a love/hate struggle with sin.
"Bruises" wraps the album up on a mellow, stripped down note, carrying a '90s industrial tone. This track could be the result when the fury of the preceding selections has burned out, leaving only the painstaking, half-whispered plea of the chorus: "Show us how to live / How do we forgive through the bitterness? How do we get there? Show us how to die, how to give our lives, living sacrifice." It is the perfect note of surrender and admission of need to end the collection.
The fusion of Brian Head Welch's well-established roots with the contemporary savvy of his supporting band creates one of the most solid rock albums to be released in the past few years. Unashamedly heavy without feeling bombastic, this is an album for post-grunge rock fans who want songs that burn with undeniable raw honesty while throwing off sparks of hope. This is an album of songs that reach for God from the dark, admitting vices while acknowledging the reality of a cure. This may be the first full release from the Love and Death ensemble, but it is not lacking in depth or experience. Hopefully this will be only the first of many rock solid releases from the band.
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