ReviewsRed Handed Denial - A Journey Through Virtual Dystopia (Paid Vacation Records)

Red Handed Denial – A Journey Through Virtual Dystopia (Paid Vacation Records)

Perpetually underrated act Red Handed Denial has been around for well over a decade, delivering a potent mix of immediate hooks and complex instrumentation. A modern mix of those elements that took from a variety of different metallic subgenres, as well as those outside it, to positions themselves as an intriguing band that doesn’t stick to the defined boundaries. In this case, consider their newest album, A Journey Through Virtual Dystopia, their biggest leap so far as they give into an even more varied sources of inspiration, experiment with new soundscapes, and merge them with moments of ear-grabbing heaviness. There’s a risk factor involved here, and Red Handed Denial makes it work for them and brings forth what might be their strongest effort to date.

Opening cut (and first single) “Parasite” stays mostly to the band’s previous strengths and showcases some of their finest qualities. The dynamics moving between heavy and melodic, intricate and hook-y, and dreamy and abrasive. It’s all there, in a short 3:30 for the listener to unpack and enjoy. There’s sweeping guitar moments, punishing breakdowns, menacing roars from vocalist Lauren Babic, and then on the drop of a hat, they can switch to a more melodic and soaring sound that all but soothes as it marches forward. It’s still a punchy and entertaining combination, but as the rest of the album showcases, the band isn’t a one-trick pony. “My Demise” rolls in with some electronic beats and rollicking grooves with Babic’s vocals rhythmically sitting atop, finding a solid merger of more progressive metal and almost pop indulgences. Sure, it dives into heavy spot later on, but there’s a clear departure here that the band embraces without forsaking their own identity. “One More Night” sits as the track that’s going to potentially wow, with it’s very different approach and it’s sheer songwriting bliss. There’s an underlying heaviness to it, but there’s also a massive dose of pop ballad meets rock attitude in its mix, and it absolutely shines. Babic’s vocals take a more centerstage than before, and she elevates the track with an elegant grace while still digging deep into some pockets of heaviness at the appropriate time. It’s a beautiful track in its own right, and notes a big shift from some of their previous material but in such a way that it feels incredibly genuine and true to the band’s usual sound.

“Falling Back to You” also keeps with the combination of heavy and melodic elements, with a focus on a very hook-y chorus and some big melodic build-ups, sitting almost in a melodic metalcore range that feels catchy but just ‘heavy enough’ yet still shimmers with it’s attention to the sheer catchiness of it. “Smokescreen” hits a bit harder, and taps into the more intricate side of the band’s playing ability and hits harder than the preceding tracks, revving up the listener to the most scorching track, “Eat Glass.” An absolute battering ram of a track, the band goes all in with the more aggressive and technical side of their sound and delivers a bludgeoning cut that’s as playful as it is devastating. Interestingly, the next cut swerves from the most heavy to the most intimate and gentle in “I Hope You’re Happy,” which is an entirely melodic, ballad-esque track that Babic absolutely brings to life with her vocals as the instrumentation builds up around her over the course of the song. “One More Night” might claim best track on the album, but this one is a very pretty song that swings pretty far from their usual stomping grounds. Ending with “Home,” which brings back more distorted guitars into the mix, it’s still a very dreamy track that leaves things on a soaring climax.

A Journey Through Virtual Dystopia is an expansive release from an established band that pushes things in all the right ways. The band could easily just pop out more of the same, but it’s clear with this album that they challenged themselves to create something that excited them, and that excitement carries over to the listener when they hear it. There’s enough of the band’s DNA in it that no one is going to really accuse them of simply ‘selling out,’ but rather praise them for genuinely integrating what makes them work as a group while steering them into uncharted waters. Red Handed Denial have really outdone themselves.

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