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TRACK LIST: 1. Dementia 5:46 2. At Most Desire 4:22 3. The Song Remains 5:39 4. Prove Me Wrong 3:42 5. FM 4:48 6. Sour 3:17 7. All She Could Have Been 4:19 8. Separation of Soul 4:44 9. Thorns for June 6:00 10. More Than It's Worth 4:02 11. Them 3:53 12. Wired 5:53 13. Los Muertos 5:15 LINEUP: Aaron Nava – vocals; bass; keyboards Clutch – guitars Dino Cuneo – drums
Prolusion. Hailing from Denver, Colorado, USA, RED STAR REVOLT was formed in 2007 by singer/bassist Aaron Nava and guitarist Clutch after the demise of their former group. Drummer Dino Cuneo, another Colorado native, was recruited after several months of auditions. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2008 on the band’s own label.
Analysis. “Red Star Revolt” is one of those albums that, while undoubtedly very solid in terms of technical proficiency, cannot help but strike the listener as strongly derivative. While we are all familiar with bands talking large leaves out of the books of, say, Yes or Genesis, we are much less so with bands sounding like minor, not-as-successful versions of the likes of Porcupine Tree, The Mars Volta or Tool, undoubtedly the most influential acts in modern progressive music. Though it isn't yet as widespread a phenomenon as those unabashedly imitating the classic bands, as the 21st century slowly heads towards the end of its first decade, we can expect to hear more and more of it. I have seen mention of Yes, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin among Red Star Revolt’s influences. To be perfectly honest, I have not heard anything reminding me of either of the first two bands, while the Led Zeppelin influence seems to be slightly more evident – particularly in Aaron Nava’s plaintive vocals and the occasional Page-like riff. However, the major sources of inspiration for the band are clearly much closer to the present time – namely Tool and The Mars Volta. On some of the tracks the influence is so evident as to be almost embarrassing. In the style of so many recent albums, “Red Star Revolt” is over an hour long – which, in my opinion, is very rarely a good thing. By the time you are about to reach the end, the album has sort of overstayed its welcome, and the fact that many of the songs sound rather alike does not help at all. None of the tracks last longer than 6 minutes, though most of them have a rather complex structure, with frequent changes from slow to fast, then to slow again, or vice versa. There are quite a few examples of this, starting from opener Dementia, a clearly Rush- and Mars Volta-influenced offering, down to the Geddy/Cedric-like, high-pitched vocals and the spacey guitar and synth sounds, and its follow-up, “At Most Desire”, with a very abrupt time signature change 3 minutes into the song. Echoes of Tool and its offshoot, A Perfect Circle, show up in at least three tracks, namely The Song Remains, FM, and especially Sour. Both the relentless, abrasive guitar riffing and the vaguely Middle Eastern, plaintive singing style are distinctly reminiscent of the harder end of the ‘alt-rock’ spectrum. Wired, on the other hand, blends Tool with Black Sabbath influences, quite evident in the vocals and the slow, hypnotic riffing. If I had to choose one or more standout tracks, I would pick two, though very different from each other in nature. The longest song on the album, Thorns in June, clocking in at 6 minutes, is also the most atypical of the band’s sound, being a largely acoustic effort with flamenco-style guitar and percussion, emotional singing and some ethereal vocal harmonies at the end. On the other hand, the album closer Los Muertos is the only instrumental track on the disc, unless you count some snippets of maniacal laughter and occasional chanting in the background. Alternating heavy, punkish guitar riffs with slower, more atmospheric sections, even though indebted to The Mars Volta for more than its Spanish title, it is a refreshing change of pace and provides some respite to those less than keen on Nava’s vocal style.
Conclusion. Though composed and played by more than competent musicians, Red Star Revolt’s debut is definitely lacking in the originality department. Everything on the album clearly spells out their debt to the likes of Tool and The Mars Volta, which means fans of either band may find it interesting. Anyway, since the band shows promise, it is to be hoped that their next effort will be less derivative and more aimed at finding their own voice within the modern prog scene.
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