Friday, February 19, 2016

Album Review: Red Eleven - "Collect Your Scars"

Red Eleven’s “Round II,” released in 2014, was a powerhouse effort, the kind of coming out party that vaults a band from local favorite to national spotlight.  The Finns are churning out more content, with this new effort “Collect Your Scars” representing the band’s third full-length album in four years.  The band centers their efforts on rock with metal influence, a multi-dimensional experience that speaks to the songwriting versatility of the membership.

What remains inimitably intact for this new record is the cinematic sense of place that permeates the entire energetic experience.  Red Eleven have a knack for showing off their dramatic side, a willful penchant that shapes the music and demands attention like a jilted only child.  Just listen to the open of the record, as the layers of “I Follow” progressively stack into a decadent sheetcake of aural enjoyment.  The larger-than-life presentation of “Yarn of Life” serves only to further the point, as the rafters shake with righteous rock/metal hybrid fury, the band pumping out high voltage into straining capacitors.

Which is part of the fun and mastery of Red Eleven – the band knows how to present a moment, and remains stubbornly unafraid to either bend or totally ignore the limitations of genre to attain the sound they want.  Hence, the piano intro of “Last Grain of Sand,” a song that song that is beautifully rendered regardless of what idiom it’s supposed to sardine-canned into.  Same goes for the soft piano outro of “Know Yourself” which seems maybe a little tacked on at the end of the track, but works in the sense that it presents a juxtaposition of sounds.

There’s a malleability on “Collect Your Scars” that’s rare in any genre, but especially rare here, and it’s not limited to the difference in sound between tracks.  Observe “Just a Game” a steam engine of a song that paces itself with three distinct phases of the journey – there’s the fast part, the big part and the rock part, all coming together into a tapestry of different threads creating a more dynamic whole.  I’m badly mixing my metaphors here, but that’s sort of the point – Red Eleven is throwing whatever kitchen sink parts they can find into the mix, provided that it sounds appropriate.

We see this most in the dire but oddly enchanting “And Then I Took His Life,” a song that is diverse enough to almost justify having different voices for different characters.  There are huge, open choruses, filled with pomp and heartfelt, sing-along goodness, a sinister breakdown that drips with sneering malevolence and ill will, and then a return to form for a redeeming outro.

One point of caution and it’s important.  “Collect Your Scars” is an involved listen that is heavily layered and not exactly a take-and-go for the initial listens.  So for those playing along at home, this record requires either a handful of listens to absorb its full potency, or one listen without distraction.  That doesn’t mean ‘without distraction’ like it’s-on-and-I’m-checking-Reddit, that means undivided attention.  A rarity in this modern age.

“Collect Your Scars” is another great album from Red Eleven.  It’s hard to definitively say that the album is better than the colossal “Round II,” but I look forward to listening to both a dozen more times trying to find out.  Perhaps more importantly, here’s the bottom line, regardless of the opinions of Stone Cold: In recent years there has arisen a short list of bands with the musical talent and general appeal to take over the rock universe.  Graveyard, The Sword (depending on your opinion of “High Country,”) and Red Eleven is that list.

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