Massachusetts-based metalcore band the Red Chord has become ever so slightly more palatable on this fourth album. They're still not writing songs with traditional verse-chorus structures for the most part, but "Hour of Rats" has some catchy parts (plus the great lyric "We've known each other too long to be friends"), and several other songs offer moments of pleasure amid the general atmosphere of discordant chaos. Like many other bands in the extreme metal realm these days, the Red Chord's extraordinary instrumental talent gets plenty of spotlight time throughout their albums, but their ability to subvert listener expectations with a sudden left turn -- an unexpected solo, or a riff that seems to have nothing to do with the one immediately before it -- is often given pride of place over writing a memorable song. Their music is a roller-coaster ride, exciting in the moment but not something you can mull over in your mind afterward; it all goes by too fast, and changes too much along the way. It mixes grindcore and progressive death metal, occasionally letting the songs swirl around and get almost psychedelic, as on the weird "Floating Through the Vein," but most of the time it's aggression that carries the day, so that just as something's starting to catch your ear (like the bass fills in "Ingest the Ash," leading to a pretty interesting guitar break), they shift to another blastbeat. This is a frustrating album, and it seems like the Red Chord like it that way.
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