Reviews

Red Death, Formidable Darkness (Triple-B Records, 2017)

I’ve been discussing Red Death amongst my friends since around April 21, 2015, the release date of one of the better records of that year, Permanent Exile, on Grave Mistake Records. I had seen them once before, but I really paid attention to them when I saw them the month following this release. I realized they were everything that as a young hardcore, punk, and metal fan I would have wanted to hear and see. A vocalist gesturing with animation, a sense of fun, strong musicianship and songs that are equal parts punk rock and thrash metal.

Had I seen this band at 14 or so, they would have quickly usurped the position of my favorite band; at 28 they aren’t far off from being my favorite contemporary hardcore band either. I recently got to check out their soon to be released record, Formidable Darkness, on Triple-B Records, and I’ll tell you what, the title is very telling. If there’s one thing this record is, it’s formidable.

The record starts out with the title track, and that sets the tone for a record that could easily be the soundtrack for the next installment in the Mad Max franchise. In this track alone, I hear the influence of Bastard and early Corrosion of Conformity; the thrashing riffs paint a landscape of an apocalyptic future, but one where vocalist Chad Troncale thrives as he bellows with reverbed effect, “They’ll never conquer our indomitable power." The vibe is set from the start on this record and that vibe is the essence of cool.

The second track is entitled “Usurped," and what I most noticed with this one is the guitar work out of Red Death's notable axe man, Ace (great name). His blazing solos on this song are something that hardcore and metal fans alike can appreciate. I started to imagine what the perfect Red Death set would look like in my head (I’ve experienced some like this) and it was a communal ruckus of spiked hair, ripped clothes, Nikes, spikes, sports hoodies, long hair, camo shorts and boots. To me, what makes Red Death so cool is how they can appeal to any end of the extreme music world spectrum, especially on this record. No matter what the lineup is, Red Death fits, a feat rarely and not so easily achieved.

Red Death at PBW, Pomona, CA, 2017. (Photo: Dan Rawe)

There is a certain self awareness to Red Death that I love. With Connor Donegan and Robin Zeijlon crafting the tracks, anything goes because the quality of what’s being created is always going to be high. When I heard the line “Snug as a bug in a rug” on one of the tracks on this record, I legitimately smiled. In my opinion many bands in contemporary hardcore take themselves too seriously and are scared to have fun, Red Death is not one of these bands and I think that’s why they resonate so much with me. I’m sure many of their fans feel the same way. On the flip side of this, Red Death also has their fingers on the pulse of current affairs.

My personal favorite track on the record is “Parasite’s Paradise,” which sonically I feel channels a certain era of Cro-Mags, and lyrically delves into political tyranny. Hailing from the nation’s capitol, the members of Red Death see the effects of political turmoil first hand. The line “liberty is passed expiration” is ferociously stated in this song as a declaration, not a mere idea.  

The last couple tracks of “Vagabond (Wandering & Roving)” and “Restless Acts of Madness” bleed into one another in a tasteful and epic pairing. The outro of “Vagabond” sounds like a motorcycle ride into the sunset. As the bass and drums ride along with one another I found myself anticipating what the next move was going to be, just as I couldn’t take the anticipation any longer the sunset I mentioned before goes up in the flames of a nuclear explosion as the track “Restless Acts of Madness” begins. If I wasn’t hooked before, I was definitely hooked now. This track is how you close a record. 

Red Death at Chain Reaction, Anaheim, CA, 2016. (Photo: Dan Rawe)

This record is eight songs of tasteful crossover, no gimmicks, no bells, no whistles; just straight up killer hardcore punk music. I would recommend this record to someone just getting into the genre, I would recommend this record to someone who has been around since the '80s. It’s fun where it wants to be and serious where it needs to be, anyone can get into this record and if you can’t your ears might be broken. I hear rumor this drops in full for the public to hear on Nov. 15 and will be physically available in early December. All hail Red Death, the kings of the apocalypse. 

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Head to Red Death's Facebook page for more info on the band.

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