Red Handed Denial – I’d Rather Be Asleep
Ov all bodily fluids that biology has so gracefully bestowed upon us, it is dopamine and serotonin that I hold the strongest emotional bond to. And for that reason, today I bring to you a glorious, uncalled for rant about a wondrous sonic phenomenon known as Red Handed Denial. These four wielders of the core first crossed my radar a couple of years back and while I can’t remember why exactly I didn’t dive deeper into their music back then, I do remember that they made a great impression on me. Fast-track to the release of ‘Father Said’, the first single off of their latest album, and the name clicked a pleasant memory in my mind, so I had to give it a try. And it was probably only a couple of listens in that I had deemed it the most glorious, certified banger since Spiritbox’s “Circle With Me”, maybe even stealing the throne from that one. The dynamic groove and instantly satisfying chorus slapped on top of a tremendously heavy groundwork of modern progressive riffage made it such that this song ran on repeat both in my head and in my playlist way more than I would like to admit, and when the second single, ‘Cloud 9’ took me exactly where the title suggests, I knew this album was one I’d have to give some serious attention to. And with that inappropriate display of all my feels out of the way, let’s dive into this album.
“I’d Rather Be Asleep” is Red Handed Denial‘s third full length release, and the first album I’ve ever listened to from them. It is only 35 minutes in length and it may appear as a regular djent/core/alternative metal record. In fact, from all logical viewpoints it is one. Except it absolutely crushes the standard for what I would consider a good album in this category. It feels mature, complete, balanced and honest to the core, showing that sometimes sheer quality will outclass even the most whacky and original ideas. These guys all really master their instruments and also know to come together and deliver a cohesive flow of honest emotive badassery.
Red Handed Denial – Father Said
To take you on a little trip to nerdsville, I wanna talk about the instrumental skill of each of these performers. On the surface, you hear a good rhythm that really pumps your energy. The drums are bouncy, the guitars are heavy and the whole thing simply sounds amazing. There isn’t as much technical showmanship on display as you’d expect from prog musicians or tech-wizards placed on various spots of the djent spectrum, at least not in the forefront. But a close ear will observe fabulous skill as well as knowledge to put it to good use. The riffs aren’t just heavy and bouncy, but technical and more progressive than you might realize. While the pace seems pretty straightforward and incredibly hooky on the surface, tons of subtle rhythmic shifts, intricate details and off-beat moments occur on the background on both guitars and drums, giving quite a lot to unpack for those who want to pay closer attention. Also there’s a 3 second blast beat in the final track. That requires a special mention!
The bass also comes across very well, while mostly dwelling in the background, there are moments when it flashes above the guitar or the sheer heavy sound of it draws your attention. It is subtle but not solely a functional instrument. It has its moments to shine. And another thing that makes the bass a star of this record is the insanely bombastic production. Any core listener knows the earth-shattering satisfaction of a bass drop at the start of a breakdown, and having that amplified by incredibly sharp and massive production sound only increases the bodily pleasure juices thousandfold (reprise to intro of this review cos we like prog).
Red Handed Denial – Cloud 9
There’s also a strong melodic aspect though. The riffage isn’t solely based on heavy chuggin but follows very inspired melodic patterns, and on top of that, there’s constant use of tapping lead melodies that grow the sound from just heavy to full-scale epicness. Layering, delay effects and clever use of clean guitar additions here and there fill in all the blanks between riff and melody, bridging all elements of this sonic structure together into a single unit. And while most songs are fast and heavy, ‘Let The Colours Fade to Grey’ and ‘White Water’ show a change towards a slower pace with more room for emotions to emerge, giving the much needed change in pace that prevents this record from growing stale as a whole.
Now, since the nerds are so busy laying down all this heavy artillery, it’s time for the diva to come to the forefront and steal the spotlight. And while vocalist Lauren Babic rather comes off like a badass action figure you don’t want to mess with than a diva, I’ll still grant her the high society status because she’s just that good. The vibe she gets across in her singing has the youthful vibe of every truthful artist who wants to put their heart out in their craft and let all their demons loose in music, an approach which I find most common in the modern, alternative and metalcore genres. Comparisons could go from Spiritbox to Dream State and if we look at it from the emotional side more so than music style, even Linkin Park. If you get where I’m coming from with the vibes, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the lyrics are highly focused on things like unhealthy relationship dynamics, emotional struggles and dealing with past traumas. Mental health is big with this band. I can’t say I identify a specific direction or concept but all songs are designed to release as much emotion as possible, straight from the soul. In fact I think Lauren may have mentioned this to be a very personal album and if you actually read the lyrics, it doesn’t take long to feel that.
Red Handed Denial – White Water
While the addictive hooks that initially grabbed me, would allow you to have the craziest fun to these songs, it becomes evident that there’s a much darker side to their craft as well. The lyrics to ‘Cloud 9’ for example seem to suggest a forced state of bliss or exhilaration, imposed in order to distract from an unpleasant reality that you don’t want to see. ‘Carbon Copies’ deals with people imitating each other to fit the pattern and losing themselves. ‘Let The Colours Fade to Grey’ and ‘Rose’ show someone struggling to let go of the past as well as fearing to open up to the future. And the pair of ‘Saint’ and ‘Marked by a Curse’ seems to describe what it’s like to have your patience pushed to the breaking point as well as the outpour of rage that follows when you eventually snap. There’s a lot more but I think you get the idea. Going back to the vocals though, she gets all that across through an incredibly unique and beautiful voice with vibrant volume that fills the sound as well as my hollow undead soul, only to then tear everything down into chaos when she switches to either high screams, and pretty nasty lows as well. She’s a bombastic powerhouse but also a gentle soul if you’re to look at the previously mentioned ‘Let the Colours Fade to Gray’.
Having that emotional delivery backed by all the riffage and instrumental wizardry makes “I’d Rather Be Asleep” one of the best albums I’ve heard this year on the djent/core spectrum. Despite being predictable in some ways, it gets the message and emotion across through splendid execution of all parts and I’m sure it’s everything that it was supposed to be. I see it as a piece of art that transforms past struggles into present beauty and bangs a lot of heads in the process. And yours can definitely be one of those heads so don’t sleep on this release.
Red Handed Denial – Marked with a Curse
- Cloud 9 (03:16)
- Carbon Copies (03:30)
- Fix Me (04:06)
- Rose (03:06)
- Father Said (04:17)
- Let the Colours Fade to Gray (03:27)
- Saint (03:05)
- Marked with a Curse (03:50)
- White Water (03:34)
- Spiral (03:33)