Posted on November 24, 2009 -
2005’s sophomore effort, “Clients,” marked a completely different sound, and a substantial step forward for The Red Chord. Its complex, intelligent, “math-y,” and unpredictable songwriting proved to the world the world that they have more up their sleeves than just mere muscle and tough-guy attitude – like brains, for example. And now, two years and about a billion shows later, they have returned with their third full-length, “Prey For Eyes.” It appears that the Massachusetts quintet are now honing their sound, because this record continues in a manner similar to what was heard on its predecessor (which is a brave move considering many fans were less-than-thrilled with that album.) As such, this release is definitely not as big of a departure from “Clients” as it was from 2002’s debut, “Fused Together In Revolving Doors.”
With that said, let it be known that “Prey For Eyes” is, without a doubt, the better of the two discs, and it is also, hands down, the band’s finest and most accomplished and realized work to date. And it may take several keen listens to discern the difference between the two, but there definitely are some. First of all, the band are clearly now much more competent at guitar soloing. Next, several guest vocalists pop up here (Job For A Cowboy’s Jonny Davy, Converge’s Nate Newton, and Sigh’s Mirai all make appearances.) And is it just me, or are the vocals quite a bit more listenable this time around? Finally, and most importantly, the band members clearly didn’t strain themselves trying to make these songs overly complicated or Dillinger Escape Plan-esque, and they have done away with all haphazard tempo changes and unnecessary breakdowns. Sure, there are still gobs of breakneck twists and turns to be heard here (and each one of them is sure to knock you off your feet); but this time, you are allowed to latch on to and savor one part of a song before it takes off in a different direction. As a result, this album’s flow is not nearly as schizophrenic or hard-to-follow as that of “Clients,” thus making it much more cohesive, and an easier front-to-back listen.
The Red Chord are a shape-shifting blend of hyper-kinetic blasting, headbangable groove, technical death metal, grindcore, jazz-fusion, mathcore, traditional hardcore pummel, thrash, and prog/post rock. They also throw in occasional metalcore-style breakdowns, slow, doomy passages, and black metal-tinged melodies for good measure. Needless to say, it is an undeniably inventive, meticulous, creative, and captivating heavy music hybrid, and not the kind of one you are likely to hear every day. This is a band that truly defines what it means to be firing on all cylinders – they are capable of crafting riffs on top of memorable riffs, making these fourteen really complex and technical songs also really catchy. They also make sure to include gobs of tasty guitar leads, ripping melodic solos, impeccable drumming, and thick, rubbery, (and often Primus-esque) bass lines that anchor the rhythm section. Frontman Guy Kozowyk also turns in another noteworthy performance with guttural, heartfelt vocals, and lyrics that are not-uncommonly intelligent, heartfelt, and even somewhat thought-provoking. (For proof, see “Intelligence Has Been Compromised” and the surprisingly touching “Bone Needle.”)
The highlights are many. The ripping opener “Film Critiques and Militia Men” is a monstrous death-grinder, and a shot of pure, white-hot intensity, but the next two songs are a bit more melodic. “Dread Prevailed” integrates more groove and breathing room into the typical angular guitars, deft double bass slamming, and big, punishing breakdowns, and also tosses in an impressive, winding solo; and “It Runs In the Family” is an insistent, blast beat-driven beat down with brief, but still memorable and well-placed pinch harmonics. But on the other hand, the brutal “Send the Death Storm” boasts a ton of booming, chunked-up riffs and fat bass lines, and it only makes room for a few slivers of melody in the guitar solos.
Moving along, the title cut begins with more death metal heaviness and also includes more noteworthy bass work and a catchy, call-and-response chorus. The song segues seamlessly from here, though, and the second half of it opens up for a jazzy, and ominously atmospheric oasis outro. Thus, it is one of several tracks on here that is simultaneously and equally brutal and beautiful. Its follow up, “Responsibilities,” returns the album to its manic, furious and crushing roots with nimble-fingered buzzsaw riffing, pummeling blasts, and momentous, foundation-shaking breakdowns. Track seven, “Midas Touch,” effectively offsets its surrounding death metal brutality with some tasty melodic soloing around the mid-point – but it is so brief that you could miss it if not paying attention. Similarly, “Tread On the Neck of Kings” has a short, jazzy intro before it becomes a bludgeoning track with abrasive, barnburning guitars that simply lay waste to all else.
Next up, “It Came From Over There” is, thus far, the clear highlight from a melodic standpoint. It is a very cool and epic piece that makes use of delicate melodic guitar and keyboard lines (which sometimes sound kind of like a snake-charmer’s flute) while the four-stringer (Greg Weeks) pumps out warm, strong, flowing bass lines. But the end of that track leads right into “Intelligence Has Been Compromised,” a blistering and disorienting tech metal monster that weighs a ton. “Open Eyed Beast Attack” and “Birdbath” are both, more-or-less, straightforward and slamming death metal chuggers (the former is also of note for prog-ish soloing, and the latter for its monstrous vocals), and the aforementioned “Bone Needle” is a cool throwback to The Red Chord’s Eighties thrash influences. Finally,”Seminar” closes out the set and is also its pinnacle. Granted, it is not unlike “He Was Dead When I Got There” (the last song on “Clients”), but it is still a positively gorgeous and docile instrumental piece that evokes Seventies prog-rock, and features a wealth of gorgeous guitar harmonies, soaring melodic leads, and keyboards from Sigh’s Mirai (who is returning the favor to TRC’s axeman Mike “Gunface” McKenzie for contributing a guest solo on Sigh’s latest album.)
In the grand scheme of things, “Prey For Eyes” might not outlive the current deathcore trend, but it certainly does transcend mere hardcore influenced death metal. It is, after all, quite a masterful record, and it might be such a cliche to say, but it truly is one of those discs that lets you discover something new with each listen. In other words, as far as the New Wave of American Death Metal goes, this one is beastly.