"These are our stories our trials and tribulations. This is who we are."
That's Mike Keller, the guitarist/founder behind the Bay Area rock powerhouse Letters From The Fire, explaining his band's moniker.
Ostensibly lifted from an old lyric, the phrase now serves as both a reminder of the band's sometimes turbulent origin and as a rallying cry as the group continues to move forward on an upward trajectory.
While Letters From The Fire have existed as an entity for a bit, the group has solidified a lineup that best represents Keller's original vision. The current iteration is now definitive and has become a well-oiled, tour-experienced, and critically acclaimed machine over the past year since the release of the band's debut Worth The Pain, which features 13 songs that offer a beguiling mix of melody and heaviness.
Letters From The Fire are Keller, Alexa Kabazie (vocals), Cameron Stucky (Guitar), Clayton Wages (Bass), and Brian Sumwalt (Drums).
It's been a slow, organic build, but Letters From The Fire, who were featured as "Band to Watch" in Revolver magazine have truly arrived in 2016 and 2017 looks to be their year. Through the past few years, the band has embarked on national tours with the likes of Fuel, Trapt, Nonpoint, Pop Evil, Art Of Dying, Failure Anthem, and Through The Fire. They've also recorded with former Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody, and secured their footing at rock radio with the single "Give In To Me." The song is a pummeling mix of electronics and heavy guitar which centers around a person who has an addiction that gives into their dark side. To compliment the song, the video features a mysterious stranger torturing a prisoner, who (Fight Club-esque spoiler alert) ends up being themself.
The album's title track is a major highlight, as well, and serves as the second single. It summarizes the group's early struggles and subsequent triumphs. "With everything we've gone through, we kept fighting," says Keller. "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."
Going deeper into the album, the listener will be magnetically drawn to the slow piano build of "At War," which gives way to the harsher realm of "Control," while the heavy groove of "Last December" co-exists near the perfect mix of pop and aggression in "Mother Misery." Throughout, Kabazie sounds both defiant and reflective, stating "I've been a soldier in every battle except my own" and, in the title track, simply stating "Thank you for walking away."
There are wounds here. "The record is full of stories," says Keller. "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."
That's precisely why Letters From The Fire and Worth The Pain have connected so deeply with fans and will continue to do so.