“Empire Of The Damned” is the second studio album from Falling Red, a “post-sleaze metal” band (whatever that means) from Carlisle in Cumbria. Having listened to it a good few times, I can see why these guys are building a loyal and impressive following (fans funded this album within a matter of days via Pledge Music) and are gaining a solid reputation for themselves in the rock press. Unfortunately, I believe their image may be working against them, as they’re the kind of band who, if I saw the record cover, I would actively avoid, simply by the look of them (their Black Veil Brides-eque appearance is somewhat off-putting to a grizzled old rock fan like me) and by the over-dramatic album title which sounds as if it could have been created from one of those Facebook games (“What would your metal album be called?”). However, this teaches me (yet again, I’ll learn one day) not to judge a book by the cover, because this is powerful, enjoyable, catchy stuff that packs a hefty punch, a little too gritty to be stadium rock, but too commercial sounding to be truly alternative. The press release informs us that this band is for fans of the aforementioned Black Veil Brides, plus Heavens Basement and The Defiled, but to my ears I’m hearing nineties/post-millennial Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson fused together with classic rock influences such as Guns ‘n’ Roses, Metallica and Alice In Chains; believe me, this is something I’m definitely not complaining about.
The extremely positive thing about Falling Red is that they can actually write excellent songs, with delicious riffs underpinning their gritty anthems, vocal chants for the listener to sing along to and a powerhouse sound so meaty and rousing (it’s as if Matt Elliss has captured them live) that it’s impossible to do anything other than get completely caught up in the music and to just simply appreciate it. Too many bands that look like Falling Red churn out generic, dull metal, but these musicians are a cut above. Admittedly, their slightly retro metal influences won’t be to the taste of some who like their music a little harder, faster and dirtier, but if you imagine Alice Cooper at his hardest, with just as much attention to guitar-work and melody, that’s about the level of this album. Rozey Lead, the vocalist (although if that’s his real name, I’ll buy the band a round), sometimes sounds uncannily like The Coop, so much so that it cannot simply be coincidence. Again, I’m not complaining.
The album kicks off with an introductory track, which consists of an intense spoken radio report type dialogue over an dark, edgy Metallica-esque guitar line which builds a nice feeling of tension. It then explodes into “The Devil You Know” with the opening bars sounding like an updated “Under My Wheels” and the song featuring some seriously substantial riffs. “We Escaped A Cult” is pure Marilyn Manson and, although it’s slightly too derivative to take too seriously, it’s certainly easy to enjoy on a completely superficial level. It’s a very bright opening, but the best is yet to come and there some other excellent highlights on the album. Jayde Starr’s staccato guitar riff on “Outcast”, for example, is irresistible and the climax of the song is genuinely thrilling, the title track of the album is an huge, grungy anthem which would have been a massive alternative hit a couple of decades ago, “No Sanctuary” is a fierce, punky, catchy-as-hell stormer with a nod or two to eighties speed metal, which gives top class drummer Dave Sanders ample opportunity to show off his blindingly fast fills and “Lonely Way To Die” is a pleasingly filthy sounding track which boasts a riff that sounds as if you’ve known it forever.
I have to concede that, despite the pure, raw enjoyment of this album, there is something about it that doesn’t quite make it a world beater. There is a distinct feeling that they are re-treading well worn ground at times and are still searching around, musically, to find a sound unique to the band, which I readily admit is really quite an ask in 2014. However, that doesn’t take anything away from their achievement here, which is to release an accomplished, highly likeable, powerful, slightly dangerous album that is nigh on impossible to dislike. Their musicianship is evident, the songwriting much more than just decent and they throw caution to the wind to produce an album that sounds fresh, varied and interesting. Sometimes when they’re trying hard to provide an ultra-catchy hook (for example, the chorus on the likeable “We Are Reckless”), it can steer a little too close to cliché, but the whole album has such creative energy that it is easy to forgive the times they sound a bit too much like somebody else. Anyway, enough with the criticism. I can honestly say that I haven’t enjoyed a heavy rock album as much as I have enjoyed “Empire Of The Damned” so far this year and if they continue on this trajectory and carry on developing both their songwriting and craft, Falling Red could quite possibly make that world beating album; they almost certainly have the talent and potential. Warmly recommended.
Falling Red’s second album, “Empire Of The Damned” was released to fans who funded the album via Pledge Music in 2013. It received a full, public release in January 2014. They are currently touring UK and, shortly, mainland Europe. For further details, please visit their website at www.falling-red.com.
Andy Sweeney, 15th May, 2014.