Live review from Underground Heavy #7:
1. Welcome to the Empire
2. I Don’t Care
3. World Wide Will
4. About Tomorrow
I imagine if someone told you on sight that RED was a metal band, you would have no trouble believing them – one guitarist with teased-out hair, the other with partially-sequined pants and the long-haired bass player. Once you heard them play you would probably be convinced that they are a good metal band too. The organisation (“there’s no such thing as an unkempt heavy metal record–technocratic assurance is the soul of such music” – Robert Christgau), the exchange of leads, the strong vocals. The trouble is, competent as they are, and much as I may like their style (which I do – loads), they’re still skating the margin of sounding like a former Iron Maiden cover band by the skin of their teeth. The lead riffs, specifically, nearly all sound like some Maiden song that one has heard but can’t place (an observation made by a few people).
(Which, for the record, I am fine with – it’s their prerogative what to sound like. Just that, this is supposed to be a review (la-da-fuckin’-da) so tough facts must be faced.)
The few points that do make them sound slightly different from Maiden’s numerous seventh-sons, are their tendency for the twin-guitar solos that sound more like Downing-Tipton, rather than Smith-Murray; since they don’t have styles contrasting enough. The things they actually play in solos, however, walk the line between heavy metal and hard rock (appropriate, considering how closely these two styles are related) – the content of the solos mixes the Frehley-Stanley “big-guitar theory” style with the metal already there (which is probably what Maiden would sound like if Murray were the only guitarist, no?). This slight difference gives them a different texture when combined with the operatic vocals, and is what allows them to play more 90s-Noughties stuff as well (which they have been known to cover). Overall, though, for those not positively inclined towards metal/hard rock this style will almost certainly seem myopic (and to be fair, some songs are too indistinct to remember); for those who are, it’s fun to pick apart the approach.
Welcome to the Empire made even me cringe with its pandering cheese-metalness but they made up for this quickly, with the more thrashy I Don’t Care. World Wide Will is a heavy metal headbanger’s treasure, with judiciously restricted solos and a real rhythm-based riff to hold it together. By Crossroad the songs seemed to grow out of the abovementioned tendency a little, and the rhythm section played with real groove and the solo was punchy – reminded me of Humble Pie. Overall, again, good but their margin for failure is really tiny because of the narrow niche they play within. The band’s collective attitude is great, and I would love to hear them branch out and stretch their abilities in less safe territory in the future.
– Shashwati Kala