The Rasmus – Dead Letters (2003) – Review

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Well, Hell’s Bells? What is that style? Kind of pop rock, not quite metal, but rock for sure. Then again captivating enough to get my attention?

This is the Finnish band The Rasmus performing their album Dead Letters with their lead singer Lauri Ylönen in charge of vocals. This album marked the take-off point for a varied, albeit short career, culminating in stellar records like Black Roses. Why short? Because at the time of writing this record The Rasmus enjoyed the silence of the lambs. A hiatus of sorts. And nobody knows when they will re-emerge from the darkness.

Variation is king on Dead Letters and it boasts a breezy pace on most of the tracks. Perhaps a tad too roughly mixed and produced, but nothing to worry about.

Yet it is this heaviness on synthesizers that somewhat worries me. Usually, this is the kind of style that I do not much appreciate. However, this band masters the tools of the trade to a point that things don’t collide. Or get overly poppy, when they should not be. And then – wow – their tune turns aggressive like hell in a certain way. And it is rocky, fast, and (mostly) just plain good. 

It is also the highly distorted guitars that get your attention, and the way The Rasmus pound their tracks with them through a heavy beat. This, combined with their synthesized crunch metal sound, just takes your breath away in a nerdy kind of way after a while. In truth, I did not care too much about it at first, but then their style grew on me.

Okay, you hardcore style junkies out there will say that Dead Letters is reminiscent of this or that style. But in truth and to cite someone, some of that stuff sounds kind of dark and gloomy like something Black Sabbath might have produced. Other parts sound like some weird and terrible mix between Jane and Uriah Heep in their later productions with a darker, gloomier sound. But never mind. This sound is unique enough to get its own branding.

Remarkable and quite fast is already their first track First Day of my Life. This is followed by their lead track In the Shadows. This one – by the way – stayed in the charts forever and one day until it wore itself out in the end. Captivating to look at is the video, with the feather-clad Lauri as the center villain of the piece.

There is more good fare in this record, almost none of the tracks are bad. The most remarkable ones are Time to Burn and Not like the Other Girls.

The only real failure in this album is the last track Funeral Song. Just plain pathetic. Nomen est Omen, as we say in Latin. The lyrics just want to make you scream. Not with deep emotions of the emotional kind, but really in desperation because they are so bad. Tearing your hair out at the same time – if you have some, that is.

And in truth, the weak point of this whole record are the lyrics that are not deep enough to make a real impact. Comparing this to other bands, the gap is very wide and really a point to improve for The Rasmus.

So, whilst there is some ugly in Dead Letters the overall outcome is actually pretty good. And all tracks give you that feeling of genuine freshness and authenticity that seems to permeate everything.

This whole concoction is a love-hate affair of sorts, but for sure it took the band out of the Nordic light into the spotlight of the world stage. I guess what really saves the day is their ability to connect at a visceral level. In other words, the record talks to you. And this is its strongest attribute.

Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: Playground Music | Web: Official Site
Release date: 21 March 2003

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