Red Eleven – Handled with Chaos


Despite being a country that harbours a love affair with all things melodic death metal, Finland has its fair share of cross-pollinating artists, whether that be Ensiferum (folk metal), Nightwish (symphonic metal), Khroma (glitch metal) or Phallosopher (avant-garde metal). Now the Finnish republic can add alt-metal quintet, Red Eleven, to its growing list of metal mash up artists that want to miscegenate styles, only this time they’re going back to the 1990s for their inspiration.

They call themselves a rock band, but Red Eleven ground their art in the heavy distortion of Soundgarden and electrify the microphone with the heroic vocal melodies of Armored Saint. This is alt-rock for metal heads. It goes without saying that Faith No More are a big influence, but so too are Pain of Salvation and Depeche Mode. Opener and title track, ‘Handle with Chaos,’ sprints through three minutes and fifty-seven seconds of unashamed Euro-goth rock as if following in the footsteps of One Second era Paradise Lost while pulsating with the tenor grit of Chris Cornell. Like Faith No More and Dream Theater, the Finns put the keyboard at the centre of everything they do. Sometimes it brings a pomp to the proceedings, like on the anthemic synth-rock of ‘Nothing Left to Hide’ or on the magnificent ‘My Own Space’, which starts with the digital wizardry of a Recoil synth loop and evolves into a Mike Patton croon. It’ll tax your mind for a good few minutes until you realise this is the same territory as Roxy Music’s iconic song, ‘The Main Thing’.

Yet for all the effortless embroidery of styles, Red Eleven never forget their identify as a guitar-heavy band. These days you think of rock music only for an image of vegan, indie-rock, post-modernists to spoil your vision. Let these Finns remind you that rock is thick guitars, macho distortion, heroic tempos, husky throat vocals and chorus-heavy song structures that can ignite a festival with the same expertise as a DJ at an acid house revival concert. The anthems on Handled with Chaos are relentless. ‘S.N.O.T.’ starts like Nirvana and morphs into a classic heavy metal fist-pumper. ‘Die with Honor’ thrives on bubbling synth patterns and marching drum snares and demonstrates that Red Eleven could write an extended prog-metal tune with little fuss or difficulty if they wished. On closing track, ‘Half a Life, Full Circle’, they do just that and deliver seven minutes of floating grunge riffs and transcendent keyboard hooks while vocalist, Tony Kaikkonen, unleashes his best lip-curling vocals stained with hoarse whispers and sparkling vibrato notes. You could be forgiven for thinking this band were an EMI Germany concern from 1998 with a mandate to revive hard rock from its post-grunge slumber.

With both feet planted in the glory of the 1990s alt-metal scene, you might dismiss Red Eleven as nothing but tributaries to the heyday when heavy music penetrated the MTV mainstream. True, ‘Starry Eyes’ is a Faith No More pastiche with a Chris Cornell chorus, but it loses its copyist tag if you write the name of Pain of Salvation over the top of it. Have they not been doing this without criticism for the last twenty-five years?  Only on ‘Against My Will’ do they cross over into plagiarism. This could be from any of the first five King’s X albums with its crooning harmonies and sitar arpeggios doused in down-tuned guitars. Yet it still enthrals as much as it drawls.

Your challenge is to find one song on here that fails in its duty to keep you invigorated and pumped with adrenaline. The anti-hero defiance that defines the best of alt-metal died out years ago, but Red Eleven show they can keep the spirit alive and produce a modern vision for the genre. It won’t break new ground but… Oh, well… Whatever… Never mind. You want it all, but you can’t have it.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 23/04/2021

Record Label: Inverse Records

Standout tracks: Handled with Chaos, S.N.O.T., My Own Space

Suggested Further Listening: Pain of Salvation – One Hour by the Concrete Lake (1998), Armored Saint – Symbol of Salvation (1991), Faith No More – Album of the Year (1997)