Saturday, April 11, 2009

Review: Shelter Red - Strike A Mortal Terror (2009)

Shelter Red [ MySpace ]
Strike A Mortal Terror
(2009)
Sound Vs. Silence Records

When I receive a CD and the promo materials use words like "completely original" and "phenomenal" to describe the music, I can't help but roll my eyes a time or two and chuckle. I can't even come close to counting the number of times I've read those terms, among others, but the music being described ended up sounding far less innovative than the one sheet would have me believe. Then along comes Strike A Mortal Terror, the latest release from Oregon's Shelter Red, with accompanying press exalting the progressive, technical aspects of the band's instrumental Heavy Metal. I'll admit that my curiosity was piqued before the first spin of the disc, given that the band is actually a two-man outfit comprised of Stephan Hawkes (guitars/drums) and Austin Crook (bass), but I was not at all prepared for the sonic immersion that I was about to experience.

Although the term progressive tends to turn off most metalheads, particularly when used to describe a wholly instrumental effort, in the case of Strike A Mortal Terror a significant emphasis is placed upon crafting songs that are not only technically complex but are also enjoyable to listen to. Shelter Red avoid labyrinthine riffs and instead focus on creating infectious, harmonized melodies that not only capture attention but retain it. Throughout the album I hear influences from some of the more atmospheric alt-rock outfits, such as Thrice and Arcade Fire, though the mesmerizing acoustics on Strike A Mortal Terror rely entirely on 6- and 4-string instruments without any keyboard assistance.

The mid-paced "This Is A Lost Ambition" serves as the best example of Shelter Red's novel formula. While the focus is on Hawkes' guitar, the song being essentially a four-minute solo, there is so much going on at so many different layers that the end result is a tightly woven aural shroud. A plucky riff starts off the track, but there's a haunting lead buried deep in the mix that snares the listener as the song builds into a kaleidoscope of sound. My favorite track is "Inferno", with its urgent bass lines, involved beat patterns, and captivating melodies. Crook's bass is quite prominent throughout the album, lending a certain Rush familiarity to the songs. That's not to say there's a "retro" quality, however. "Dejanira" has quite a modern metal edge to some of the riffs, and wouldn't be at all out of place alongside acts such as Disturbed or Sevendust, while the title track has a certain melodic Death Metal quality to it with tremolo riffs, double bass drumming, and thick bass runs.

I'm impressed by the level of skill displayed on Strike A Mortal Terror. Both Hawkes and Crook turn in flawless performances, with hats off to Hawkes for nailing such complex guitar and drum arrangements. Despite the intricate songwriting on Strike A Mortal Terror, the album is very easy to get in to and enjoy. It loses a little steam during the last two songs, but all-in-all this is definitely an album for fans seeking something fresh.





Track Listing
1Strike A Mortal Terror3:44
2Inferno4:31
3This Is A Lost Ambition4:26
4The Moralist4:18
5Dejanira3:58
6A Confusion Of Tongues3:58
7Last Rites For The Dying6:16
Total Runtime31:11



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