Building Up Hope | Posted November 18, 2013 Staff Reviewer
For Pennsylvania-based rock outfit Breaking the Silence, 2009 provided two major breaks: a spot opening on Skillet's intensely successful tour in support of their then-new release Awake, and a coveted record deal with Christian hard rock cornerstone label Tooth & Nail. These events propelled newly-branded The Letter Black into widespread recognition, giving them an opportunity to bring their messages of hope to countless festival and major tour stages.
Debut album Hanging On By a Thread hit shelves in May 2010, introducing even more rock followers to the powerhouse combination of Mark and Sarah Anthony's dual vocals, songwriting, and ministry focus. This fall sees the long-awaited follow-up effort, Rebuild, finally finding its way into the hands of the many fans the band's hard work has won.
Opening track "Sick Charade" gives the listener a solid dose of what's to come: gravelly guitar tone and backing vocals from Mark Anthony, Sarah Anthony's haunting lead vocals, and lyrics steadfastly demanding the truth in a sea of endless culturally constructed masks. "Break Out" introduces a more industrial sound reminiscent of older genre giants Pillar and early Thousand Foot Krutch. The guitar tone chugs through murky riffs behind a call to action.
Haunting piece "Pain Killer" follows. Drummer Justin Brown's steady beat carries much of the first verse, lending a sense of urgency to what is otherwise a more melodic song. With hints of keyboard, violin and ethereal backing vocals, this song carries some stylistic similarities to secular female-fronted rock counterpart Evanescence, though The Letter Black's lyrics focus on letting go of pain and trading it for a supernatural love.
"Found" takes an acoustic ballad-style approach, showcasing the more vulnerable undertones of Sarah Anthony's powerhouse voice. This song reassures those who are struggling or in deep pain "when you've lost all hope just know / when you're lost you can always be found." "Up From the Ashes" is a song of overcoming and identity, built on the concept "sometimes you've gotta burn the past to rise up from the ashes." This song features a strong, grunge-style guitar solo from Mark Anthony on its blistering bridge.
Introducing again the darker sound The Letter Black has often explored, "Outside Looking In" recognizes a state of separation from God and declares the deep need to seek solace in His hope again. This moody offering leads into title track "Rebuild," another cut emphasizing the more industrial elements of the group's sound. This is a song that consciously chooses healing over harm, using Mark and Sarah Anthony's vocal chemistry as a springboard for a memorable melody.
Grinding guitars and the exquisite phrasing of the searching lyrics characterize "Smothering Walls." This song declares a desperate need for rescue from heartache and self-destruction. "Shattered" is a track with an intensely autobiographical leaning in the lyrics, speaking freedom from those who have abused you. This song holds the distinction of being the only one where Mark Anthony's vocals carry lead for a full verse.
"Devil on Your Back" is a militantly aggressive rock tune fighting the lies and deceits of the enemy. The screaming that has taken a backseat throughout the album steps into the fore here. The album wraps with "Branded," a song that refuses to take on the shameful labels offered by those who would try to tear you down. This track also features a gutsy scream on the bridge that is perfectly placed and executed. A song of empowerment found in the identity of Christ is a solid way to wrap an album that often speaks from a place of helplessness and fear.
On their sophomore release, The Letter Black shows marked progress towards musical maturity from their debut album while also harkening back to some of the best elements of their independent work. They maintain some of the harder elements of their sound without ever sounding overly abrasive, tempering harsh industrial guitar tones with Sarah Anthony's shimmering, chilling vocal sound to create a piece that could easily hold its own in both Christian and mainstream rock formats. Thematically, the album honestly speaks to struggles while also emphasizing the hope and potential for healing available in Christ. The Letter Black is a group that burns across the darkened sky of rock and roll with all the momentum of a hope-filled comet, shedding sparks of passion and life in its wake.
Song to Download Now:
"Painkiller (Get it on iTunes here.)