(Metal Blade)

01. Fixation on Plastics
02. Lay the Tarp
03. Black Santa
04. Antman
05. Clients
06. Upper Decker
07. Hospice Residence
08. Dragon Wagon
09. Love on the Concrete
10. Blue Line Cretin
11. He Was Dead When I Got There

RATING: 8/10

Much like the anticipation built up for UNEARTH's "The Oncoming Storm", the hype machine has been firing on all cylinders for THE RED CHORD's "Clients", and deservedly so. "Clients" is a tough and interesting, hardcore-infused, grindcore-based, and death metal spattered monster that's been given a taut, muscular production courtesy of both the mighty Zeuss and THE RED CHORD. You can debate the album's merits in comparison to 2002's "Fused Together in Revolving Doors" until you're blue in the face. A more hardcore-leaning and decipherable bark from vocalist Guy Kozowyk, a tighter (though no less manic) delivery, and the services of a big league producer do not equate to selling out. Don't kid yourself. The fact of the matter is that "Clients" is one skull cracker of album that's equal parts brutality, inspiration, chaos, and devastation, yet somehow it maintains focus.

Never a snug fit for the grindcore pigeonhole, I can hear as much BURNT BY THE SUN and SWARM OF THE LOTUS on songs like "Fixation on Plastics" and "Lay the Tarp", as I can NAPALM DEATH or even CEPHALIC CARNAGE. The palpable sense of tension is one of the album's key characteristics, the almost hypnotic drum break and understated guitar in the middle of "Hospice Residence" that lulls one into a false sense of security before exploding into a million pieces is but one example. The hardcore kicks to the head greet you at every turn, the grindcore-induced feeling of flying off the hinges is omnipresent, and just when it seems that things might head off into an overly mathy direction, you're spun around and slapped upside the head. Just listen to the way the band effortlessly switches to an extra chunky southern sludge groove on "Dragon Wagon". It's the kind of shift in gears that PREMONITIONS OF WAR did so well on "Left in Kowloon." Once the smoke has cleared, you're finally allowed to breathe again on "He Was Dead When I Got There", a thick-riff slow groove with sharp dual guitar harmonies, flowing leads, and faint spoken parts. I had to laugh at the realization that no matter how many times I listened to the album closer, I still thought there was a chance the boys might suddenly stomp on the accelerator and run me over again.

I'll risk the cries of sacrilege here and say that there were times the textured rhythms and gargantuan riffing had me thinking in terms of a grindcore MASTODON. Relax, it's just a vibe, not a full-blown comparison. It's not that "Clients" succeeds because it's some kind of musical high water mark (though the skill of the players is immense). Rather, the album works for many of the same reasons that "When White Becomes Black", or "The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good" work. It's an extreme music that you can feel in your bones, that satisfies the primal urges, and that stimulates and/or scars the mind.


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