After eight long years, Love and Death have finally returned with their second album, Perfectly Preserved. Released on February 12, 2021, Perfectly Preserved brings nu-metal back with a vengeance. Chunky, staccato guitar riffs adrenalize each song and the melodic choruses are instantly appealing. But what else would you expect from a group of such established rock and metal authorities? Love and Death’s frontman Brian “Head” Welch is a founding member and guitarist for Korn; guitarist and vocalist JR Bareis is also signed on with the band Spoken; their drummer Isaiah Perez performs for Phinehas; and their bassist and co-producer Jasen Rauch rounds out the band with his experience working with other acts such as Red and Breaking Benjamin. On top of this, Perfectly Preserved features guest appearances from ex-Flyleaf member Lacey Sturm, Keith Wallen of Breaking Benjamin, and Ryan Hayes of Righteous Vendetta. (Can you see why I was so excited for this album?)
With so many accomplished musicians on the roster you’d think that Love and Death would be more of a side project for all of them, or maybe even some kind of ego trip, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, Perfectly Preserved feels whole and well-crafted, each piece in the right place. Every element feels purposeful and refined, the likes of which only a bunch of matured professionals could create. Much like the music, the lyrics feel as if they come from a place of understanding. Pulling from their own personal struggles, Love and Death sing about the darkest parts of their lives while standing victorious on the other side. Though their lyrics often call back to the midst of tragedy and hardship, they are the living proof that there is hope for everyone caught in similar circumstances.
Altogether, Perfectly Preserved feels like a cohesive unit. It may not be trying to create anything new or flashy, but it demonstrates the best of what these seasoned musicians have to offer. So, let’s get into it!
Perfectly Preserved takes the experience of each member of Love and Death and combines all of their talents into a solid record. Nearly every track is stacked with captivating, monster guitar riffs and memorable refrains. The bridge sections often feature belligerent rhythmic sections, proving again that nu-metal is the father of metalcore breakdowns. Most of the tracks follow the standard pop structure (intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, outro) and the mix is full and robust. At the forefront, Welch’s hoarse and throaty vocals contrast perfectly with Bareis’ smooth delivery.
An ensemble of strings, combined with a piano, open the album on the first track, “Infamy.” The slow and atmospheric song builds the tension and then quietly releases it in time to make way for the first crushing riff on “Tragedy.” Similarly, every following song begins with a pounding guitar riff with the exception of “Affliction.” In my opinion, the tracks “Down,” “The Hunter,” and “Lo Lamento” have especially tasty intros. From there, melodic choruses keep the album soaring and provide a brief respite from the onslaught of guitar riffs. In many choruses, such as the one in “White Flag,” Bareis’ bright and melodic vocals create a captivating juxtaposition against Welch’s violent and syllabic delivery. Often, the ferocity of Welch’s voice is most fully realized in the bridge sections of tracks like “Death of Us” and “Lo Lamento.” To compliment his voice, staccato guitar patterns unleash an almost primal energy that further the intensity.
The additions of guest performances by Lacey Sturm, Keith Wallen, and Ryan Hayes feel right at home. Though all are skillful vocalists, my favorite appearance comes from Sturm’s performance on their cover of “Let Me Love You” (originally performed by DJ Snake and Justin Bieber). Her lead in the second verse and superb harmonies throughout the rest of the track add a new sense of sensitivity and intimacy to the pop song’s metal reimagining. On the other hand, her screams create an entirely separate sense of emotional distress to the song, fully rounding out its many textures.
One other notable moment in the album is the last 30 seconds of “Tragedy” where the tempo progressively slows down. Though tempo changes may not be uncommon (look no further than “Ode to Sleep,” “Sicko Mode,” or “Bad Guy” for example), a ritardando of this scale in a modern song is rather rare and difficult to pull off, evidence of the true musicianship behind Love and Death.
The Lyrics and Message
Lyrically, Perfectly Preserved comes from a place of personal honesty. Many of the tracks deal with painful emotions and experiences such as divorce, addiction, and trauma. The words are written in a more straightforward notion, making each track more easily relatable. Despite the fact that many of the songs are written from inside the pain and chaos, the artists are already on the other side of the experience. The writers have since found victory over those situations. Welch in particular is open about his past with debilitating addictions and unhealthy relationships and how he has been able to find purpose from the suffering. Therefore, the songs do not only contain the difficulties, but also the hope to make it out.
“Searching for a thousand years inside of me / (It’s nothing but broken) / Return for more just to feed my tragedy,” reads the chorus to “Tragedy.” In a way, “Tragedy” is the story of someone who experienced a traumatic event and never faced the pain to start the healing process. Eventually the pain becomes such an integral part of the person that it requires feeding, creating a cycle of victimization and further torment.
The final track, “White Flag” is the opposite side to “Tragedy.” Where the character in “Tragedy” remains trapped in a cycle of brokenness, the character in “White Flag” is perseverant and triumphant. In the bridge, guest Ryan Hayes screams, “Believe me when I say That I was born for this, give up it all for this / Nothing in the world could stand like I stand for this stay strong to the end of this / And I know you’re scared of this take the fear and the power and conquer it / We’ll never raise the white flag.” In the end, Love and Death declare that they are the victors. The tragedies of life will be the ones to raise the white flag of surrender, not them.
Ever since the release of their single “Lo Lamento” in 2016 I’ve been waiting for this album in anticipation and it has met all of my expectations. The guitar riffs are brutal and heavy and the melodic choruses made me want to shout along. They are expert songwriters. One of the first things I noticed was how different “Lo Lamento” was from the single version. The new mix is fuller than the old one and it took me a while to fully appreciate the new drum part. It’s probably my favorite track on the record, though I still miss the piano at the beginning of the original single version. I was also surprised to find how much I enjoyed their cover of “Let Me Love You.” It’s easily one of my top tracks on the album and invokes a completely different emotional response from me than the original version.
If I were to have any complaint about this album it would be that it’s too short. Though “Infamy” is a great introduction to the album, it leaves only nine full songs afterwards. Perhaps Love and Death will come out with a deluxe edition like they did for Between Here and Lost. I just love this band so much that I don’t want to wait another eight more years until the next album.
At the end of the day, Perfectly Preserved is a solid record crafted by experienced hands. Its callback to the early 2000s and skillful construction in all elements, from songwriting to mixing, keep Love and Death at the top of the metal genre.
Link to the Perfectly Preserved on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/7BuSHSKWrEiZR8zF9YShvJ?si=XaP3O0XSRq6rlvMQb4dfwg
Link to Love and Death’s website: http://www.loveanddeathmusic.com/
Read Head’s commentary on each song here: https://music.apple.com/us/album/perfectly-preserved/1537181687