Take a good look at the zombie cover artwork of Love Equals Death's Fat Wreck debut Nightmerica. If you want, flip through the sinister-looking liner notes as well. Now, get any eye-rolling, preconceived notions of the band out of your head because the music of Love Equals Death is actually way more interesting than their fake horror film façade would suggest. And thank goodness. Instead of being some metal rip-off band with shrieking vocals and oh-so-scary lyrics of monsters and death, Love Equals Death is really more like a multifaceted version of a late-'90s skatepunk band. Empowered -- and at times socially conscious ("The Broadcast," "Bombs Over Brooklyn") -- lyrics dot the release and hint that seeing the band live is surely a sweaty good time. Images of Pennywise and No Use for a Name are conjured up during "When We Fall" and its assertive, singalong chorus could rile up even the most down-and-out of punk rockers. The album is strongly reminiscent of a pre-Art of Drowning AFI, and while altogether a rocking effort, the highlight of Love Equals Death comes in the dynamic vocals of singer Chon Travis. He effortlessly shifts from a hardcore shriek to a mid-range sneer to a borderline croon that sounds years beyond his twenty-something age. While "Pray for Me" and the acoustic piano ballad "Truth Has Failed" hints at his voice, it's most noticeable on "Lottery," which leads to the only problem with the smooth side of Travis' range -- the band should use it more often. True, most songs require the relentless energy of a hardcore singer (which he pulls off well), but lots of bands have singers like that. Love Equals Death, however, has more than just a hardcore frontman on their hands. One has to believe more songs are brewing somewhere to highlight an engaging quasi-croon not often heard in the genre, and which will hopefully appear as the band develops further. After all, promising and refreshing in its mix of old and new sounds, Nightmerica is a breath of fresh air among the ironic screamo bands of the world. Hopefully, this album is just the tip of the iceberg for Love Equals Death.
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AllMusic Review by Corey Apar