31 October 2009

Flood Of Red – Leaving Everything Behind

Scottish sextet Flood Of Red bring their own brand of emo urgency on this debut full-length, though not without mis-steps like the wrong-footed, ill-advised introductory track. But once the soppy 'The Edge of the World (Prelude)' falls by the wayside, the band's natural pace comes to the fore. For the most part, this is reasonably busy melodic punk rock, with distinctly late-nineties lead guitar melodies. Not a bad thing, for those who recall the glory days of Gameface and Sense Field.

Speaking of Sense Field, the vocals are intriguing: they contain enough personality to engage, but there is a high-register softness to them that sits rather uncomfortably with the angst they're aiming for. Such juxtaposition is perhaps the intent, and sometimes works effectively as a council-estate Mars Volta. But over the course of fifty-odd minutes, they can grate. What presumably aims for intense lyrical poignancy misses the mark somewhat, as song after song features lines like 'I'm so scared of everything' and 'I have never been so scared'. The words are clearly shortcuts to emotion, but they ring hollow.

There is the occasional electronic beat or stab of synth, but such events are throwaway details. Blink, and you will miss what are effectively novelty, an obliged concession to modernity, rather than a desire to push things forward. There are times when the dynamic range extends beyond medium to up-tempo rock: 'Electricity' is a brief interlude of sonic introspection, which leads seamlessly into the more substantial 'I Will Not Change'. While it's no 'Parabol'/'Parabola', it's a decent stab at injecting some art into their well-trodden template.

What is here is competent. The lead guitar flutters freely through melody and riff, though the rhythm guitar is a tad slushy. Combined with the singer's soft timbre, the mix runs the risk of collapsing into liquid homogeneity. One suspects the band has missed a trick here: they could potentially make a virtue of this aural coalescence by upping the reverb and stretching out in a My Bloody Valentine/Serena Maneesh-style dreampop reverie. Concluding track 'The Edge of the World' actually hints at this kind of sound. Conversely, if they want to bring the rock, they could aim for a producer like GGGarth for their next record, a man who brought fellow Celts Kerbdog and Biffy Clyro into brutally effective clarity.

In terms of modern emo, Flood Of Red are more comparable to the softer, sensitive (remember when 'emo' was an abbreviation for 'emotional', rather than a pejorative for kids in eyeliner?) Thursday than the epically melodramatic My Chemical Romance or 30 Seconds To Mars. I want to like this more than I do. The band has no small amount of talent and the occasional spark of imagination. It's just that such sparks are too rare, and their songs get lost in among each other, in a near hour-long slog of driving riffs and soft singing. Flood Of Red have potential, but Leaving Everything Behind presents too large a lump of music for the ideas on display. Tightening up the sound for the next album, as well as finding their own identity, should pay dividends for them.

***

POSTSCRIPT: This is my first review for The Music Magazine. Check 'em out!

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