Red Handed Denial – I’d Rather Be Asleep (Self-Released)

Wednesday, 3rd August 2022
Rating: 9/10

Continuing to grow and build upon each release, Red Handed Denial have returned for their follow up to 2019’s excellent Redeemer with a new full-length effort in I’d Rather Be Asleep.  With an established and dynamic sound, there may not be huge musical jumps from this release from their predecessor, but it’s easy to hear how the band has approached this with a fresh set of ears and tweaked some things accordingly.  I’d Rather Be Asleep then, is a powerhouse that shows Red Handed Denial playing firmly into their strengths.

What’s always worked for the band is the combination of the immediate hook-y satisfaction that comes with the music, that slowly gives way to something much more complex below the surface that will keep bringing you back and hitting play.  The band knows how to write playful music that will grab you, like the gorgeous guitarplay in “Rose,” and there’s a surface level beauty to it that lovingly compliments vocalist Lauren Babic’s enigmatic range.  But with more listens, you can really dig deep into the instrumentation and it’s pure ear-candy as the band delicately weaves in intricate riff patterns and shreddy goodness at a much nerdier level – even at the band’s most catchy in the chorus.  All of that still works out splendidly for the act, and it’s a clear strength.

What’s most noticeable from Redeemer though, is a sense of streamlining.  Some like to critique this as “going mainstream,” but as already noted, the band is executing the same level of musical prowess they’ve always displayed, but they have managed to successfully pack all of the proggy goodness into 3-4 minute bursts instead of dragging things out.  If anything, it makes an even larger impact, with songs like “Saint” swerving between an instantly earworming chorus and some heavier yet playful prog riffing barrages and grooves and still managing to gracefully bow out just past the 3-minute mark with an exhilarating level of showmanship.  Closer “Spiral” has some of the band’s most engaging and playful riffs piling in, and still allowing for a bit of ethereal calmness to enter without feeling too jarring.  Even the lightest song of the bunch, “Let the Colors Fade to Grey,” gives Babic some much deserved spotlight but never relies entirely on her performance alone as the melodies swirl around her as the track progresses.

Another successful release for Red Handed Denial, I’d Rather Be Asleep reinforces the band’s ability to create some masterfully catchy songs that are built from the ground up with technical prowess and flair.  Some may come for Lauren Babic’s incredible vocal presence and range, but the band offers plenty of musicianship to place around her that will truly keep fans coming back for more as they dissect the riffs and melodies the band squeezes into a digestible time frame.

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