Label: Malignant Records
Of all the records to come my way in recent times, Only Red is one of the more disturbing. The tracklisting should make it clear that this will be no easy ride, and Only Red makes good on that promise. But what makes it such an uncomfortable 48 minutes is the way that The Vomit Arsonist manages to convey his sense of self. There is something profoundly personal about Only Red, a sense that what is contained here is not for you. Cathartic it may well be, but this is not an album that cares for the listener’s feelings; which only contributes to just how strong it is.
Heavy, industrial percussion (to call them rhythms would be misleading) and strong drones form the backbone of Only Red, with sound loops, damaged electronics, and an overwhelming atmosphere of pain and desperation giving the album its flesh. There is nothing remotely approachable about the record – every moment bristles with spikes and anxiety, as if striving to keep the world at bay and prevent any invasion or interference of the artist’s personal space. The only way to make sense of – and survive – Only Red is to throw yourself in to it wholeheartedly, letting the swirling currents and tides of pain batter you until you find something like stability. It is hardly an easy task, but one full of reward, as the way sole member Andrew Grant puts across his anxiety and nihilism is very compelling.
Whilst the majority of the album may be explicitly aggressive, it does not mean that Only Red is 48 minutes of near constant assault. “It Just Is” takes a more sinister, measured approach, building up atmosphere before the harsh percussion shatters. “Unwelcome Peace” slithers in the darkness, conjuring an atmosphere that is somewhere between a funeral rite and esoteric evocation, and is one of many highlights. Even the undeniably harsh “I’m Not Fine” has a sense of space; which succeeds in making the more intense, claustrophobic sections all the more horrific. Whilst there are elements of harsh noise at play here, the album is more within an aggressive death industrial framework, with a dark ambient influence at times – the intent is not simply to bludgeon the listener in to submission. Rather, Only Red, whilst undeniably aggressive, does just an effective a job of getting under your skin, attacking your mind and soul over repeated listens, wearing you down until you are unable to resist.
All of which is without mentioning the vocals. Distorted and tortured, they are horrifically powerful, as if conjured from the depths of your nightmares; and yet, they retain a core humanity, the emotions they convey clear even if individual words and lyrics are not. Whilst the track titles may mean there is no mistaking the mindset behind Only Red – “No One Can Help you”; “Nothing Matters”; “Unwelcome Peace” – the nature of the vocals and music means that they could all have been untitled, and misunderstanding would still have surely been impossible.
Only Red is most surely an album not to be taken lightly, and is yet another superlative release from Malignant Records. As much as it may try to keep you out, the strength of what is on offer is sure to keep the listener coming back, and there is something strangely addictive about the darkness the album conjures. Perfect for times when you want the misery of your own life to pale in comparison to that which someone else feels.