Who remembers the importance of Italy’s Ephel Duath in 2003 when metal entered a period of reinvention after the demise of nu metal, the rise of black metal, and the uncertainty of what was to follow? Their album, The Painter’s Palette, offered the promise of an avant-garde resurgence with its dominant mix of black metal and jazz cementing the good work laid down two years earlier by Maudlin of the Well. It looked like they had the critics under their thumb, yet they never achieved their full potential and split up in 2014 to little fanfare. Founder, Davide Tiso, aims to put that right with his new experimental extreme metal project, Red Rot, which also features the former Ephel Duath vocalist, Luciano George Lorusso. They spent most of 2020 and 2021 crafting their art, and it’s clear they had an eclectic playlist during this period of pandemic isolation. Mal De Vivre is a strange album but one that intrigues like the rare symmetry of the stars in the sky.
Davide Tiso sees Red Rot as an experimental death metal band, but the Converge influence and the vitriolic throat abrasions lean closer to metallic hardcore. Opener, ‘Ashes’, is a case in point. Dissonant guitar arpeggios and dramatic drum accents provide the framework for a robotic monotone vocal to pierce through the grey with a neon glow. You might blurt out “We are connected,” in a dalek voice while waiting for the Voivod reprise to kick in, and that’s intentional. Tiso cites the Canadian legends as an influence on his work for this record, especially the atonal chords and sharp modulations. ‘Undeceased’ and ‘Near Disaster’ conjure a new vision for mathcore as a chaotic sub-genre of hardcore refined with gothic elements and black metal atmospherics. The curious questions continue at track five on the excellent, ‘After the Funeral’, where the band reference the distinctive My Dying Bride gloom of the Feel the Misery era with the loud rage of the latest Norma Jean record. Did you think death-doom and mathcore could combine in the same song? Neither did this reviewer, but Red Rot prove otherwise.
Announcing your debut with seventeen songs is an unusual approach, but the record comes in at just under forty minutes and contains many short flashes of metallic hardcore experiments designed to disorientate you. They present six consecutive songs of unmelodious bludgeoning from track ten (‘Dualism’) to track fifteen (‘Dysmorphia’) as if dissatisfied with the pace of the front nine. Every one of them is a puzzle seeped in the strange chord formations of Gorguts and dripping in the violence of Dillinger Escape Plan. The volatility will unnerve you as much as the shaky rumination of Lorusso’s gothic voice on ‘Conversation with the Demon’ and ‘Under Attack’, both of which are standout songs here. Listen how the former alternates between a sordid self-hatred and an expressive post-metal release of negative energy. The latter presents another new concoction – might we call it gothic mathcore?
Red Rot are like an impenetrable riddle that demand your attention and monopolise your time. Often, you can’t make sense of their art, but it tempts you back for repeat listens to see if you can understand it from a different angle. While this can be a mild frustration for the listener, it’s not something you should hold against the band. They believe their mandate is to challenge you, which means nothing is as it seems. The grinding guitar arpeggios reverberate like the unmusical noise frequencies and atonal whistles you’d expect from the sound velocity of a broken machine. Lorusso’s hysterical screamo vocals are just as unnerving. Mal De Vivre is an experiment in controlled chaos, like the thrill seeker who uses auto asphyxiation for the ultimate high, knowing they can pull back from the possibility of death by oxygen starvation at the last second.
Welcome back to the fold, Davide Tiso.
Release Date: 26/08/2022
Record Label: Svart Records
Standout tracks: After the Funeral, Conversation with the Demon, Under Attack
Suggested Further Listening: Mothman – Cancer Withdrawal (2022), My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery (2015), Norma Jean – Deathrattle Sing for Me (2022)