Exploding like a Fourth of July spectacle, Chicago's Raise the Red Lantern are the textbook definition of passion on Breathe Fire. In fact, this album doesn't really let you breathe; rather, it takes all the air from your lungs.
The band has crafted a blistering joyride through Neurosis tinged hardcore and raw, aggressive, upbeat rock. The band name drops Thin Lizzy in their bios for example, and though this is stylistically hard to imagine, spiritually both bands are similar. Raise the Red Lantern have that blue-collar bluster about them, and on Breathe Fire it definitely shows. Intense, passionate, and driven, the disc is full of straight sincerity in an age where most bands fake it to pay the bills. There's none of that bunk here, and Raise the Red Lantern's uniquely joyous sound could go very far.
Take the opener (and title track) "Breathe Fire." It starts AND ends with ambient effects, the kind of vague noise that only the band really understands. Sandwiched in-between the two points, one finds a mix of grimy, driving rock punctuated with sparkling pinch harmonics that a proggier act like the Mars Volta might enjoy.
Album highlight "Ol' Ironsides" is an upbeat rocker that is destined to inspire rampant, sweaty, and grinning moshers for years to come. The soaring "Daggers in Mens' Smiles" has that devil-may-care attitude that just makes one want to punch the air. Great stuff!
"Bury Them and Keep Silent" is the first 'average' song on the disc; it is still a winner, but it pales in comparison to its forebears....or so I thought until a cathartic mid-song yowl-along changed my mind. The crusty headbanger that is "Brethren We Build This" sounds like the most fantastic barroom brawl of all time. Capped off, by a stellar quasi-breakdown laced with shredding shrieks, it is an amazing cut.
My favorite song though is next, as the band begins its epic "Descent from Babylon." It taunts us listeners we a sense of oriental melody amidst the chaos; slithering and shaking like a coke-addict, the song comes across as down, dirty, and a helluva good time.
"Swallow This Swell" is a rollicking number that is straight ahead filth and fury, making for another strong showing. Peppered with some surprisingly deep bass notes here and there, and some pretty wicked drumming, I'd like to hear this puppy in concert. The hypnotic "Snake Charmer" is a slightly more laid-back piece that is something of a curveball. It didn't shock me or anything, yet I didn't hate it either. Hmm, guess this one is neither foul nor fantastic.
The band closes with aplomb though, dropping two haymakers on us as the disc winds to a raucous close. The first, "Shark Attack" has plenty of bite to it (pun intended). The palm-muted riffs on this stomper is some horn-throwing material for sure, and I enjoyed the tailspin at song's end. Album closer "We Put the f*** Back in Memphis" is just that. As the longest track at barely five minutes, the song starts off subdued before whipping itself into a spinning windmill of rage. Raw and meaty, this one is like a delicious piece of venison. Gnaw on it baby, because it tastes good! Joking aside, this song is a great, straightforward, no 'frills rocker.
As mentioned prior, the band does engage in some post-hardcore stuff, but at their beating, red, American hearts I think Raise the Red Lantern want to be a rock band. Unrelenting, loud, fun, and fast, Breathe Fire is a manifesto for the proper expulsion of bent-up kinetic energy. Boy-oh-boy, have these blokes got it in spades. If you like pounding, dirty, and very adventuresome rock in the vein of everything from Mastodon to Bear Vs. Shark to Neurosis to Thin Lizzy to Motorhead and maybe even a little Sleep these guys may be up your alley. Check 'em out and see if I'm right.
1. Breathe Fire
2. Ol' Ironsides
3. Daggers in Mens' Smiles
4. Bury Them and Keep Silent
5. Brethren We Build This
6. Descent from Babylon
7. Swallow This Swell
8. Snake Charmer
9. Shark Attack
10. We Put the f*** Back in Memphis