Raise The Red Lantern's 2009 self-titled record finds the band claiming its own unique identity. Expanding upon 2006's Breath Fire, the Chicago-based outfit returns with a brand of raw, hard-rocking sludge brightened by moments of poignant melody. These brief instances of lucidity provide an excellent counterpoint to the band's older, liquor-soaked riffing. The ensuing cocktail thus wars on two fronts - listeners will get a hard hit to their stomach first, their mind second.
"Ritual," the album's opening cut, provides a great example of the new direction the band is heading. Instantly plunging into churning sludge and tortured yowls, the song soon gallops full-tilt into blistering riffing ala High on Fire. After this, things take a turn for the awe-inspiring with an extended jam session featuring roiling bass lines, caustic howls, and guitar harmonics flickering like luminescent sparks. Cathartic yet crushing, it shows a band in full-command of not only heaviness but the heartstrings as well.
"Thick as Thieves" dives right back into knocking teeth out like a bar-brawler ready for a few more punches. Pounding drums back manic chords, the whole frantic mess boiling over into a song focused solely on confrontation. The vocals wail and holler like a boozed-out sing-a-long, creating an atmosphere of urgency and aggression. Somewhere between Black Flag and Baroness, "Thieves" is a solid sludge anthem indeed.
"Awaken" jumps out of bed with jittery percussion and a high-octane guitar assault. Later on, the band busts out some staggering guitar melodies sounding like Thin Lizzy played at half-speed. Short and to the point, this monster sports stereo-rattling bass and lung-shredding screams locked in top-gear.
"Oracle" kicks off with some straightforward guitar stomping before erupting into a coked-out noise rocker. Massive riffs collide with harmonic flourishes, producing a tune somewhere between crippling and catchy. Though "Oracle" spends most of its runtime at a more reflective speed, there is still plenty of barnstorming available as well.
"Deliver Us/Deliverance," for its part, is an extended bass solo with tons of melodic rhythm abuse going on. "No Man's Land" is a more traditional song, kicking off with a drum roll before morphing into an up-tempo thrasher. It drops in some psychedelic note picking, mid-tempo chords, and punkish palm-mutes for variety's sake. Decidely oldschool in tone, its retro vibe makes it worth checking out despite the fact it isn't the most memorable song on the album.
"Wild Stallion" injects a dose of adrenaline into the proceedings, zooming by with guitars which rattle and hum with barely-contained energy. Shimmering melodies counterbalance roaring vocals, producing an interesting beauty and beast paradox. Ending with a sledgehammer of a breakdown, "Stallions" mixes the band's best attributes into one cohesive whole.
Last but not least is "Seduction of Slumber," a mini-epic starting with a single guitar line. Thick bass notes and labyrinthine drum patterns soon join the fray, building tension by keeping the song's atmosphere claustrophobic and restrained. When the real assault begins, the song careens by with thundering riffs and pinch-harmonic breakdowns, eventually collapsing into a breathless, burnt-out finale.
Raise the Red Lantern have greatly matured on their self-titled album and it is intriguing wondering where they'll head next. At times bruising, at others beautiful, Raise the Red Lantern is an underground gem just waiting for a find. Sludge fans looking for something equal parts memorable and metal have a winner here. Get on the bandwagon while the getting is good.
Thick as Thieves
No Man's Land
Seduction of Slumber