Red Helen is one of the first African Metalcore (maybe, metal) bands I had the pleasure of listening to. They are from South Africa and “Trading Past For Pathways” is their début album. The first song I heard, “Suicide Notes and Bloodshot Eyes” had clean vocals that reminded me a little of bands like Confide and Underoath. I remember being quite excited to see that Brandon Pratt was featured on “As The Wicked Wander” by Forfeit the Untrue which is one of the best songs from their (FTUs) last record. So when I heard that Red Helen had finally dropped a full-length album titled “Trading Past For Pathways” I was eager to find out what the album had in store.
One thing Red Helen does that make their songs fun to listen to is the incorporation of Odd time signatures (OTS) to their riffs and breakdowns. OTS are something that I find quite fascinating to listen to. And there’s a lot of that here. “The Collapse” opens the album with a mellow intro that features a very audible bass chugging at a OTS before assaulting the listeners with guitars and screams. “Ode to the corrupt” is next on the album with its relentless and angst filled lyrics. Although it features some mellow moments, they don’t weaken the song. “The Unbreakable Resolution” features a lot more cleans than the earlier two songs on the record. “Vartamana” is the next clean heavy song which has this really cool guitar section that starts at the 1:52 minute mark followed by some screams and blistering blast beats.
“Shadows” has this jazzy intro which is followed soon after by the aggressive sound you’d expect from the band. With no shortage of palm muted chugging. It even has this section that features some slightly haunting cleans at the 1:30 minute mark, which I liked. Unfortunately, that was the only part of the song that featured that haunting atmosphere. “Home” starts off in a way that makes you think that the OTS will be taking a break but you’re soon proved wrong. This song is probably the easiest song to keep up with as the OTS are not as prominent as they are in the previous songs. And the chorus of the song is probably one of the most catchy on the album.
“Trading Past for Pathways” is the album title track and while it’s not one of the songs I really enjoyed as a whole, the mellow section had this jazz/blues feel that I quite enjoyed. This is followed by the album closer, “Suicide Notes and Bloodshot Eyes”. The track opened with a really haunting piano, guitars and a spoken word section which are soon followed by….well…the more aggressive parts. It’s a metal album, after all. And serves as a pretty cool album closer
“Trading Past for Pathways” is a well-produced album. The instruments are all very audible and the clean singing has this emo /hardcore-punk/post-hardcore vibe to it. The screams were a bit on the monotonous side but were still well done. And the odd time signatures did keep things interesting. However, for some, the OTS might have made things a little too interesting to be able to fully appreciate.
Another issue listeners may have, due to its heavy progressive elements, is that one song can have 3-5 different musical sections. Ranging from angst filled progressive riffing to jazzy/blues influenced mellow sections. And a section you might like might only be a minor part of the whole. The varying tempos might also make it hard to distinguish between some of the songs. Red Helen released a good album and things can only get better from here. I look forward to hearing what the guys have in store for us in the future. Be sure to buy their album HERE. Support your local bands and rock on \m/