Review: Letters to the Exiles – The Shadow Line

Artist: Letters to the Exiles
Album: The Shadow Line
Genre: Metalcore
Label: Strike First

Long Island’s Letters to the Exiles come equipped with a devoted commitment to their faith while delivering a heavy, pit-igniting audible attack. After joining forces with former Alove for Enemies vocalist Erich Barto in 2008, the band signed with Harvest Earth records. Shortly following, they released their first EP entitled, A Call to Arms, which established their style of spiritual boldness with blazing metal riffs.Two years later, Letters to the Exiles return displaying a refined musicianship, on their first full length album, The Shadow Line on Strike First records.

A dramatic introduction entitled “Prelude” kicks The Shadow Line off with a soundscape combining a haunting yet beautifully crafted piano line that’s layered over ambient backdrops. This only eases the listener into the heavy assault that’s to come. “Oh, Holy Dread!,” follows introducing ardent, technical riffs while offsetting with melodic tendencies. Naturally, Erich delivers the same baritone screams that you’d hear on an Alove for Enemies album. However, aside from a few gang chants and sporadic spoken words, his vocals lack anything extraordinary but are satisfying enough to do its job. “It’s Never Safe to Dream,” is the start of an abundance of breakdowns. They are heavy and compelling but since they are employed frequently on each track they become saturated and overused. For those that are simply entertained with breakdowns, Letters to the Exiles should appease to you but the rest of us are left wishing for something more mouthwatering.

Their impassioned mission is to spread a message of hope while keeping a backbone in religious ideals. They stand tall proclaiming their faith but don’t force-feed their beliefs. The Shadow Line’s lyrical base is built by remaining hopeful through the struggles and pain the world can endure on a person. “You’re Not Going to Seduce Anyone,” is an apparent example of their agonizing lyrics as Erich screams, “Wipe that smile off your face, this is not a game. There are souls at stake, I will live to watch you burn.” Although the despair seems to be overbearing he comes back with a truthful, optimistic outlook as he states, “I will pray for you, you are not alone. I am still right here.” Musically, they are right up to par with their uncompromising faith, on this track. “You’re Not Going to Seduce Anyone,” exhibits some of the most impressive double bass work this album has to offer. Furthermore, chunky breakdowns, multi-layered guitars and deafening screams are a momentous mixture. Although most of the songs are respectable they ultimately lack a long-lasting effect. Luckily, the closer “Epilogue,” saves the album with notable groove sections and a powerful climatic rise. Following a subtle melodic break, pounding drums kick in and strong passionate screams, “what have I done, what have I become,” is repeated and then fades out.

The ability to stand out amongst the growing ranks of metalcore acts is becoming virtually impossible. Unfortunately, despite a valiant and commendable effort, Letters to the Exiles don’t quite measure up to their counterparts.  The Shadow Line is an accomplished album but in the midst of the genre is only able to stand on middle ground. Their musical proclamation and pummeling visage doesn’t match up to their personal depth of fiery lyrical convictions. However, this debut album shows the potential Letters to the Exiles are capable of reaching and that will hopefully be enough to carry them through.

Score: 5/10

Review written by: Nerissa Judd

James Shotwell
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