There’s a good argument to be made that bands of this ilk – brutal Death Metal bands – should shy away from attempting that risky proposition, namely the concept album. More often than not the strictly one-dimensional focus on sonic brutality is insufficient to meet the inherently elaborate and multi-textured theatrics that is, for better or worse, part and parcel of concept albums. Well, DERANGED, the long-time also-rans of Swedish Death Metal, have tried their (bloody) hand at this exactly this on “The Redlight Murder Case”, ostensibly a bizarre Jack The Ripper-like tale of murder most foul. Good idea or not?
Now it’s not the first time that these Swedes have dipped their toes in the concept-pool (man, does that sound stupid...), as their 2002 effort “Plainfield Cemetery” loosely dealt with the decidedly nasty exploits of one Ed Gein, and in many ways the gory topic fits perfectly with the band’s no-holds-barred Death metal sound. This new album is nowhere as heavy as the aforementioned album but on the plus side it is a surprisingly catchy and focused affair, with at least two thirds of the album being wholly enjoyable Death Metal that is very much in the vein of recent VOMITORY. Brutal (note: not br00tal), slightly groovy Death Metal that is not above throwing in a classy Speed Metal-like melodic break now and then. The recent line-up shuffles didn’t affect their signature sound one iota, and once the unnervingly doomy, buzz0saw strains of “Watch Me When I Kill” kicks off proceedings there is little doubt that this will be solid Death Metal all the way. This thick, ‘buzzing’ guitar tone perfectly captures the caustic dementia that surrounds the Ripper case, and the various tempo changed throughout ensures that the songs don’t drag on unnecessarily. The band is at their best when they keep the pedal to the metal (see: “Watch Me When I Kill” “Gently Before Shie Dies”, “Redlight Murderess”), while some of the slower songs add a creepy vibe to proceedings, but beyond that there is precious little that really sets this album apart from other albums of this nature. I’m not so naive that I expected the band to indulge in multiple atmospheric interludes, flute flourishes and so on, but the truth is that concept albums need more than mere sonic butchery to see them through and this is where the band predictably falls a tad short – the songs are solid and occasionally very enjoyable in their own right, but at the end of the day they simply don’t possess the soaring oeuvre that any concept-driven work demands.
Yes, this is a good album that will undoubtedly enthral fans of CANNIBAL CORPSE and the aforementioned VOMITORY, but it lacks ‘something’ – a little more variation here and there (both riff-wise and in terms of the vocals) wouldn’t have hurt, while some of the songs would also have benefitted from the injection of a few atmospheric breaks now and then. Ultimately “The Redlight Murder Case” comes off as a mere glance into the mind of a killer and not a full on exploration of the seedy underbelly of human nature. It should’ve been more, but this album is nevertheless still a fun little listen.
(Online May 17, 2008)