Velvet Coast – The Letter from Private (EP)

Letter From the Private coverFollowing on from last week’s review of Hound’s We Will Never Sleep EP, here’s the second offering from Seoul-based Realize Records: The Letter from Private by Velvet Coast. As with Hound I don’t really know anything about Velvet Coast themselves; for both bands I tried to google up a little information to try and provide more context, but unfortunately couldn’t locate any info.

The Letter from Private – I think we’re missing a second definite article there – is an album constructed around a theme. The details, alas, escape me, as I’ve not got access to the lyrics and whilst I can make out snatches of the English vocals that’s not enough to really make it clear what each song is about, especially as quite a bit of it is in Korean (as one would expect).

Still, it’s a reasonable assumption to make from the title, cover and song names – as well as the intro track which is entirely composed of samples of gunshots, bomb blasts etc. – that it’s a personal take on the horrors of war. From the song titles it looks like each track essentially focuses on different aspects of an individual’s psyche in such circumstances, which is an interesting approach that I don’t think I’ve heard done before.

Compared to their labelmates Hound the most obvious difference is in the vocal styles; although Velvet Coast also have a second vocalist who uses the gruff, guttural roaring style, their lead vocalist genuinely sings. The first thing I want to say about that is the juxtaposition between the two vocalists works really well here, and I imagine is why the band have been described as “a combination of both emotion and power” (that’s the only thing that Google found for me). It sounds very different to but is conceptually no different to the singing/screaming style now used by a ton of hardcore, emo and metalcore bands.

The second thing I want to say is that the lead vocalist reminds me a bit of the singer from Baby Little Tablets, who play a very different style of music but who are one of my favourite bands, so the comparison is definitely a compliment!

The first of four songs is ‘Private’ makes me think most of early 00s nu-metal; intentional or not there is a strong vibe there from the chuggy metal riffs built around a more traditional rock structure to the combination of vocal styles. There’s a decent groove here, though, with the band eschewing the snappy, stompy, abrasive style of the nu-metal outfits of that era. I imagine the similarity is, in fact, a coincidence. Anyway, ‘Private’ is a reasonably affecting song, with the melodies and the heaviness of the song working together as well as do the dual vocal styles. ‘Isolation’ uses much more layered vocals and there’s actually a third style here with higher, strangled-sounding vocals being introduced to the mix, although these death-ish vocal styles are still married to some simple, driving melodies.

‘Clown’ is an odd title given the album’s theme, but there are many ways in which that could be understood – I’ll not put words into anyone’s mouth though. Musically it’s actually a bit more upbeat than the others, if only via the more laid-back vocal line. The bassist seems to get a bit more to do here – elsewhere he spends most of his time following the root notes which must get a bit dull – which works well, and the guitars bust out a few nice harmonics here and there. ‘Clown’ is followed by ‘Misery’, which actually falls a little flat for the same reason that the other songs work: it appears to be aiming for an emotional and dirgey tone, as born out by the intro, but once the full band kicks in the structure and riffs are little different to what has come before.

All told The Letter from Private is actually pretty good and I’d recommend a listen if you like something that manages to simultaneously be very traditional and quite different. Hopefully the band can continue their efforts to experiment more and get a bit more variety into their riffs, which I think would help more unusual songs like ‘Misery’ to really breathe.

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