Red20 – The Red Album

So yes, we have been trailing it for ages. Yes, I have played various versions of some of the tracks over the past few months. But listening to the album as a whole, it has some kind of visceral thrill to it. The big thing to note to start with, is how the band has evolved. Everything just sounds more…assured. Sure, they wear their influences proudly on their sleeves, but they manage to co-opt it into a sound that is all their own.

Red20
The Red Album
Label: Self-released
Catalog#: none
Buy from: no longer available
Listen to:: Inferno
9/10

The album comes roaring out of the blocks with Inferno and Gunners, two up-tempo slabs of industrial metal, complete with huge, hummable choruses, judicious use of sampling, fantastic riffs and even blastbeats. After Gunners being the first track released from the album, a good couple of months ago, I might have thought I would be sick of it, but I’m still not – a testament to how great the track actually is. So far, so KMFDM, you may say.

And following that, you would be wrong. The pace is slowed considerably for the next few tracks, The Mirror being a more straightforward, mid-paced guitar track, with a vaguely familiar synth line, and after the breathless opening to the album, the change of pace is welcome.

Things get somewhat odder for Acid Scars, with Al and Andy doing a call and response for the vocals, the guitars and electronics brought to the fore, and the beats banished to the back. Highlight is the chorus, a very Skinny Puppy-esque breakdown.

And now…we reach perhaps the album’s only misstep. Waste has what can perhaps be described as a “swinging” beat, with a clear guitar riff ringing through much of the track. For me, it just doesn’t really work, and goes on a little too long.

It’s right back on track though with Death Sentence, an even more furious assault of beats and guitars, which with the use of some sampled choir effects and piano, takes the track into black metal territory. By far the most extreme track on the album, it is quite likely the best too. A welcome break in proceedings for Holocaust next, a rather creepy soundscape with some good guitar effects.

To The End pulls the album back into life again, and is another odd track. Andy’s vocals sound almost feminine in parts (one of the great things about the whole album is the great variety of vocal styles used), and it has yet another great, sing-a-long chorus. Again, it has that nagging sense of sounding familiar without actually being so.

Killing For Jesus (v2.0) is very different to v1.0, with it’s clever use of cut-up vocal samples of George W. Bush, as opposed to the porn samples of the original. You want a reference point? Well, obviously, it is in the same line as Ministry‘s N.W.O., and No W., for that matter, but that doesn’t take away it’s power. It is probably the only track with a clear message, too – a characteristic of much of the album is that the lyrics seem rather cryptic.

Unknown is another solid, fast paced track – the highlight of which is the superb guitar solo at the end. The time for another intermission, in the form of Interference, a minute of scattershot drum’n’noise and cut-up voices, which could perhaps have been stretched into a full track (and certainly the results of that would be interesting).

The final two tracks couldn’t really be much more different. Shutdown is an odd mix of a stomping chrous, with layer upon layer of vocals and guitars, and the verses that would slip in nicely to the latest SP album. While Invisible is the closing ballad, with what appears to be an entire choir of Al’s for the anthemic chorus. It is certainly the most brave track on the album, as it is a total departure from the normally abrasive style, and points perhaps to a far greater depth than might have been considered at first glance.

So all told, the album is a fantastic success. A curious clash of styles that in some cases could have come out as a horrible mess, works very well. Production-wise it is very clean, with all the constituent parts vying for space as they should, but nothing overpowers. It may not appeal to everybody, but then what does? Open your mind and give it a go. You may well be pleasantly surprised.

Out of the albums difficult and long (for this band, anyway!) 14-month gestation period has come an album that despite it’s flaws is a real leap forward, even if it only fleetingly meets the vast heights that they had set themselves.