Red Room Ensemble – Red Room Ensemble (2015) – Hailing from Finland, these guys originally were part of a cover band by the name of Moonburn (which is a pretty good band name – I actually like it more than the current moniker to be honest) and have played in several different variations of metal and rock over the years. Red Room Ensemble seems to pool all of these talents into one pot, where the results come out quite staggering more often than not.
While “I Am Hunger 4:28” didn’t really catch me on the first listen, “Sheherazade 5:10” seems to mix doom, prog and classic heavy metal into a fantastic conglomeration that simply cannot be ignored. It was at that very moment that I stopped what I was doing (I believe that I was reorganizing heavy merchandise in the stock room at the time) and stood there for a few minutes, really soaking in what I found to be a truly memorable performance. But after you hear a song like that, you often wonder as to whether or not the rest of the album will take off from there. Frontman Torgny Stjarnfelt doesn’t have the cleanest vocal approach in the world and it might be a little tough for some people to grasp, but he’s clearly got a good sense of harmony and can really hit the high notes when needed.
For this kind of material, that’s an absolute must. And I’ll tell you something, because I’ve got a whole stack of metal magazines on my dresser that attest to it. If a vocalist isn’t necessarily the cleanest, some of these larger reviewers usually trash the album. It doesn’t really matter how good the playing is, if the vocals aren’t crystal fucking clear, then the record usually gets a six or a seven. I’ve seen this kind of rubbish and I won’t tolerate it here. If the artist can’t sing a note to save his life, that’s a different story. But if it’s just a slight difference in accent, then that shouldn’t even be considered a factor.
Moving right along, “And Time Takes It’s Toll 5:15” offers up a progressive backing with a rather powerful set of vocal lines that the listener should notice immediately. You can hear the passion in Torgny’s voice, which really seems to meld in well with the leads that emanate from Kari Sundstrom and Sebastian Soderlund, a twin guitar team that seem to be capable of some truly amazing things which comprise of, but are not limited to, some pretty strong solo moments.
“Stargrinder 3:44” definitely kicks things up a notch, with a harsh vocal backing and a pretty impressive chorus. This track actually hinges on power/thrash a bit and I’m quite impressed. “The Hoarse Whisperer 5:08” adds the female vocal element and seems by all means a ballad, but it’s delivered quite well and doesn’t disappoint. But I’m not going to end the description here, because the whole landscape later changes to a more punchy one that seems a little Metallica influenced, but comes across as an unexpected note to end what begins as a very light piece. It’s this sort of transformational quality that I deeply respect in the band, which is a true indicator of their promise.
“I Am The Flame 5:10” is yet another one worth mentioning as it reminds me of The Lord Weird Slough Feg and Virgin Steele a little, which sounds like a good mix and is delivered just as well. This is definitely another standout track on the disc and definitely one of the band’s heaviest outings. The disc ends out with another cut worth mentioning called “We Come At Night 5:16” which simply continues to do what most of this album has already done – deliver.
If you’re a fan of classic metal, then I think you’re going to find a lot to like about this one. Maybe some of the vocal approaches aren’t exactly perfect, but if any of those larger magazine reviewers give this record any lower than a 7, they deserve to be the punched in the face. I actually met one of those “big guys” at a festival and he was exceptionally rude. It almost made me want to quit doing this kind of work because some people can feel holier than thou, just for being a music journalist. But that’s why I’ve chosen to actually review some of these smaller bands that they’ll write off and claim they don’t have time for.
You definitely need to make time for Red Room Ensemble, which is a truly promising Finnish act, as I’ve already mentioned about four or five times in the context of this review. They say that detective novelist Agatha Christie would use repeated instances of the same word in her novels, which flocked people to them and made her an icon of sorts. Perhaps that’s what I’m doing here with this review, making sure that I’ve used instances of “promise” and “promising” enough times to subliminally brainwash you into picking up this album.
But even if that’s not the case, you should still be enamored by what I think is a truly memorable up and coming act. Give these guys a try and I’m sure that you’ll find something on Red Room Ensemble that interests you.
(8 Tracks, 39:00)