Friday, November 25, 2016

Redbelt - Beautiful Surround

Redbelt - Beautiful Surround 

The secret of why young men are attracted to guitar rock is no secret at all. The physicality of rock guitar, in all its sub-genres, remains one of the abiding staples of 20th and 21st century popular music. Some bands prefer to bludgeon listeners over the head with the forcefulness of their playing while others, like Milwaukee’s RedBelt, marry that power with melodic virtues that deepen the impact they have on a potential audience. Their debut album Beautiful Surround is a welcome revisit of the power hard-hitting rock music gains when it’s hooked up to melody-fueled songwriting and exceptional vocals. There are thirteen songs on this first release and not a single one of them lack the inspiration needed to get their point across to audiences. This is music of the body, but there’s ample intelligence behind this work as well and an undeniable spirit that gives each song its own specific energy.

“Crossed Wires” might seem, on an initial listen, to be all aggression and precious little nuance. However, set aside the clashing guitars, and you’ll hear a band who pays as much attention to the melodic possibilities inherent to the tune as they do to their riffing and volume setting. Lead singer Kevin Brown, also the band’s second guitarist, has a strong voice for this sort of material and the band’s penchant for harmony vocals is a surprising turn in a genre that doesn’t often go in for such things. “American Mercy” is even better. This is the first example of the intelligence present in their work and mentioned earlier in the review. Multiple listens will reveal more and more to the audience about how good this track really is, but there are further surprises in store soon after. Lead guitarist Mike Mann whips out some satisfyingly nasty slide guitar on the song “Shoot It All the Time” and the rhythm section establishes the deepest groove on the album that gives him a great foundation from which he can singe the listener’s ears.  

The middle of the album, however, is relatively content to mine the punk rock vein. Songs like “Sweet Release” and “30 Seconds” largely desert the band’s earlier concern with melody, but they still have big choruses that will capture any listener’s attention. “Cold” is an unusual track on the album that plays, frankly, like the band’s clearest commercial track with an unbelievably hooky chorus that the band wisely revisits a number of times throughout the song. The final half of the album has two of Beautiful Surround’s best songs. The first, “Throw Away”, represents the fullest realization on the release of their desire to bring melody, longstanding rock tropes, and punk rock attitude into the same package. “Bones”, however, is much more overtly theatrical than any of the previous songs and shows a pleasing side to the band that earlier songs don’t hint at. This is a powerful debut from a band that’s quite obviously energized by the chance to get their songwriting out on a national level. They are talented players and songwriters alike. RedBelt’s Beautiful Surround sets the stage for this four piece to have a long and potentially brilliant run.  

9 out of 10 stars

Gilbert Mullis

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