Either I completely misunderstood THE RED CHORD or they have changed their musical approach to a fairly significant degree. I say this as I saw the Massachusetts band around ‘02/’03 on their first major national tour and just wasn’t taken with them at all. My memory (poor though it is, no I mean shockingly bad) of them from that night was a messy Noisecore band who seemed more intent on blasting indistinguishable songs than any cohesive musical attack. I think I may have checked out their first album after that with little attention paid due to my bias. Well, past is past, and if their new effort “Fed Through The Teeth Machine” is any true indication then they have progressed heaps and in a direction I mightily encourage.
With crystal clear production, slick but heavy, the tracks on FTTTM jump out with a punch that takes you back. Short, stabbing but cohesive riffs are accented all over the album with weird key tweaks with very cool uses of the trem/whammy bar to achieve this. Chords are trundled out with a precision and technicality that is less wankery than amazingly alluring; muted with also a tremendous guitar tone, they run the gamut from ultra quick blasts to slow paced dirges of considerable weight. “Demoralizer” is a fine example of this, slashing at the onset in tornado fashion then shifting well to a decelerated, jutting riff and rhythmic underline. Definitely the stand-out gem of the album is the second track “Hour Of Rats”, a genre enveloping track that burst out, slows again with real muscle, then has one of the simply coolest tech riffs of the year. Axeman Mike McKenzie shows opulent ability all over the fretboard on this cut: deep slogging chords, that sensationally precise and groovy riff in the middle and then a really nice solo utilizing a fine harmony. McKenzie apparently is the only guitarist after years with a twin attack, and while I’m sure some of the complexity of the record is over-dubbing, he does a really masterful job all over the album mixing stoic riffs with complex arrangements.
The entire FTTTM record alters pacing and sounds with an adroit skill. Vocalist Guy Kozowyk compliments all of this with a perceptible, throaty jabbing which may not be unique, but works well with the music and goes beyond a lot of typical muddle of grunts on most modern Grind/Deathcore albums. Which brings me to the seemingly pervasive attitude in metal circles that THE RED CHORD are a run-of-the-mill Deathcore band. I think not, and if my somewhat limited experience with the genre is true then comparing them to rather forgettable fare like JOB FOR A COWBOY is unfair to TRC. They are far better at constructing songs and much more gifted technically. Two things are apparent to me from listening and really enjoying FTTTM: give bands a bit more time and attention than a cursory look-in and when a site is streaming an entire album, make use of it. If it wasn’t for the latter I wouldn’t have bothered with this record and would have missed out another gem from a great year in Metal.
(Online December 26, 2009)