|Do Burnsred live up to the high expectations they boldly set?
BURNSRED - or possibly Burns Red (both versions are used on band websites) - appear to have no problem setting high expectations. Without a great deal of modesty, they describe themselves as "a brand of metal with the Sturm und Drang of Neurosis, the gloomy melancholy of Agalloch, the cerebral appeal of King Crimson, and the visceral sludginess of Grief." Evidence provided to back up the San Francisco trio's claim comes in the shape of this self-titled and self-released debut album. Does it succeed in doing so? Well, without giving too much away, it would be quite exceptional to reach the standards set by any one of those bands, never mind all of them.|
Technically, 'BURNSRED' is a quality release. It may not have the backing of a label, but the recording work was carried out in various professional Californian studios and subsequently mixed and mastered, presumably also professionally. The result is a crisp and clear production, with the various recorded elements layered seamlessly into a solid and satisfyingly full sound. The whole process took a year to complete - and it shows in the attention to detail.
Musically, it's also a quality release based on the traditional power trio format of guitar/vocal, bass and drums. Keyboards, ambient noise programming and some background vocals supplement the basic sound and the drummer, Kevin Conway, contributes vocals for one track. The latter doesn't, in all fairness, offer much variation to the usual voice of Robin Koytcheff – both favour a harsh, not particularly deep, growl that bubbles along with the instrumental melody line. It works in the context of the music, but – in all honesty – I find the brief phrases of background clean singing to have a more interesting potential.That aside, all three are more than competent musicians with a tightness of composition that allows them to complement each other fully. Both sound and mix are unselfish in bringing contributions from all the instruments forward: particularly noteworthy are some of the rumbling bass lines of Ryan MacArthur.
In terms of style, the album is more quintessential guitar-driven post-metal than doom, produced by a band that understand how to manage the necessary changes of pace and melody to make it work. Much of it is mid-tempo, with an aggressively sludgy and overdriven edge to the guitarwork, backed by interestingly complex and varied percussion that contributes far more texture than simply keeping a beat. Where it moves to quieter, more instrumental and slower-paced passages, the simple but deftly-embellished melody lines are extremely well-constructed and fit beautifully into the song structure. There is almost no sense of wasted time or effort anywhere in the album: each track evolves constantly and smoothly from section to section – and with the shortest, 'Standby', clocking in at 7 minutes, there is plenty of time for each to evolve.
Given the nature of the songs, it would be pointless to attempt to deconstruct them individually. Each of them takes the same stylistic elements and works them into a similar pattern: any one of them adequately demonstrates all of what BURNSRED have created with this album. That is not a criticism, or to say they are all identical – just that the differences between them are more subtle than can easily be summarised in a few words. The best of them, in my opinion, is the longest – the near-10 minute ' Cleanse CMXCIX', if only for the guitar and church-style organ closing section.
Returning to the original band description, then – does it succeed? Well, that has to be both yes and no. It is certainly an album which shows a strong influence of Neurosis and Grief, along with a number of other post-rock staples. What little melancholy there is, for example, is more in the detuned style of Godspeed You! Black Emperor than Agalloch - in fact, there is very little trace of the naturalistic, folk-metal-doom of the latter. As for King Crimson: it could be argued that some of the more extreme riffing on this album echoes their maddest moments of sonic assault, but falls a long way short of emulating the sheer complexity and anarchy of Robert Fripp's musical intellectualism.
The end result is still something to be proud of, though. It may not quite live up to the promised genre-crossing enormousness, but within the niche it occupies it is a very creditable effort on both musical and technical grounds. In terms of evoking emotional responses, it perhaps falls a little flat – aside from some of the quite inspired quieter passages, it almost seems too well-crafted to leave room for much genuine feeling. There are very definite signs that this could change for the better in future works, given the evident abilities of the band, but for the moment this is primarily to be enjoyed by those who already like the genre rather than appealing to a much wider audience.
3. Cleanse CMXCIX
4. A Sentence
Duration : Approx. 48 minutes
Visit the Burnsred bandpage.