Vex Red have had a lot to live up to considering they are perhaps the most unknown artist to ever sign to infamous producer Ross Robinson's I AM RECORDINGS imprint label. Hailing from the U.K., the group were relatively unheard of when their demo landed in the hands of Robinson and the subsequent signing was announced, leaving many wondering exactly what they sounded like with little to no way of finding out. Such curiosity was only piqued all the more by the fact that I AM RECORDINGS has always had a cast of colorful characters including such artists as Slipknot, Glassjaw and Amen within its ranks. When judging by this album however, Vex Red are a worthy, if not unexpected addition to the roster as their sound is one that is considerably distanced from the aggressiveness of their fellow label mates and shows a new facet of Robinson's musical tastes. Indeed with their stylish brand of electronic alternative rock, the band blend haunting melodies with passionate vocals and punishing guitars, bringing to mind a cross between older Radiohead, softer nine inch nails, Stabbing Westward and more, while straying far from the seething violence most have come to expect from the I AM stable.
Band frontman Terry Abbott's scratchy downtrodden delivery can at times tonally resemble Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns, though it is a different story altogether style wise. At times ethereal sounding, Abbott's drawn out emphatic croons stitch together a dark and brooding performance that is balanced out by large, dynamic choruses. Similarly lurking about is the guitar work which enlists a wealth of effects and stark clean tones to sculpt a thorn laden wall of noise that is intoxicating and held firmly in place by some well placed lumbering crunchy riffs. Accordingly, looming bass lines with a respectably low tuning add their formidable slow paced grooves to the material, stabilizing the often atmospheric verses with depth while also putting force behind the guitars provoked lunges. A stiff and often sparsely implemented drumming performance that is able to play both solid rock and dabble in drum 'n bass timings is set in place underneath the dense musical environment the band create. Taking shape through a variety of different mic work and tones, the percussion gracefully compliments the bands serene soundscapes while simultaneously causing the electronic programming and sampling to make an even stronger impact. Creative and steadily buzzing underneath the surface, it is perhaps this electronic incorporation into the bands sound that takes them to the next level, causing their songs to take on an encompassing range and engorge the listener with a cacophony of disturbing sonic dissonance and lush aural environments.
Having already established a solid fan base for themselves overseas on the strength of this release which hit stores in their homeland earlier this year, Vex Red are now setting their sights on breaking into the ever fickle North American market. Considering that the tides of what the mainstream media are currently dictating to the masses is steadily changing, it would seem like they have quite the opportunity to make their mark with no real set style taking dominance in the present climate. Their material is gorgeously dark and yet accessible, without sounding poppy or watered down. It's also highly emotional without treading down the all too familiar emo road, giving them a decided edge when considering that the current emotional spectrum of rock music on major labels seems to consist of either exaggerated radio rock or emo inflicted indie rock. Admittedly the album might be a bit too sullen or downtrodden for some but for those sick of the current wave of what's popular this album serves as a breath of fresh air. Adversity will no doubt be faced as they have little in the form of contemporary peers to tour or share their sound with but this is also their blessing as it gives them the ability to stand out. In fact, whether or not they achieve the success their record company would like them to in our backyard doesn't seem to really matter - They've already won by creating a strong debut offering that is both moody and uplifting enough to keep the listener entertained for many spins to come.
(4 / 5)