Album Review: Lock Horns – Red Room (The Distortion Project and Code 7 Distribution)

Northern Ireland’s Lock Horns will release their brand new album titled Red Room on the 31st of May, out via The Distortion Project and Code 7 Distribution.

Northern Irish progressive metallers, Lock Horns have been busy working on the follow-up to 2018’s ‘Molon Labe’. 5 years is a long time to wait for a release from any band, though it is safe to say that Lock Horns weren’t exactly taking it easy in recent years. Timing challenges in a changing world were the main cause of the lengthy wait but, as the expression goes, “Good things take time, great things take a little longer”.

Recorded in late 2022, Red Room went through a process of evolution, starting from as far back as late 2019/early 2020, before the global pandemic forced the world into somewhat of a dystopian nightmare. By the time the world opened up again, Lock Horns found themselves in possession of material that was now three years old, and no longer a reflection of who they had become in a post Covid world.

The introduction of an 8-string guitar also drastically changed the bands creative potential, and a decision was made to wipe their creative slate clean, and embrace the rich vein to which they had stumbled upon.

Lock Horns have now fully emerged from the depths of that intensive creative period, with an album that stretches the bands creative horizon to new levels of intensity and unbridled passion.

Lock Horns Red Room band

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Speaking of the new album, guitarist Junior Afrifa says;

Boundaries were pushed on this album, sonically and physically from a playing perspective. I truly believe this a seven-track album that is most definitely, ‘all killer and no filler’, as well as being full of unique songs that take an unexpected turn at every corner. From seven-minute chaotic riffs, to three minutes of polyrhythmic nightmares, this album is the brainchild of all four of us, and we’re all immensely proud of what we’ve created. Trust me when I say, it’ll be well worth the wait.”

Red Room brings us 7 tracks to check out and a run time of around 30 minutes starting with the longest track on the album, The Origin Of Evil Impulses. No time is wasted as the track jumps straight into a crunchy and metallic intro of riffs and drums that quickly grabs you and gets your head moving. Vocals are barked with energy and aggression while the slightly off kilter riff runs with a sort of stomping, stop/start pattern. A little melody permeates the crunch as it leads into a chorus with some clean vocals before the darkness returns. Clever ideas push through with a nice deep backing vocal line before an instrumental section that screams progressive at you takes over. It’s quirky and unique, certainly showcasing the expanded range of Lock Horns here on Red Room.

There is a lot going on in this opening track, with many different transitions and ideas in the mix but it works and is an exciting listen, occasionally descending into chaos, then pulling it back to riffs, then pushing some more boundaries. Fans of technical and progressive sounds are going to be very happy. Fans of structure, like myself, will still find enjoyment here as there is just enough structure, at the right times, to keep things feeling like organised chaos, not just chaos.

Rust is much shorter but Lock Horns pack a lot into the just over 3 minute run time in a meaty and intense track. The drums are fire, banging out speedy rhythms while the scratchy guitars chop away at you. Vocals are deep and intense, delivered at pace in a track that flows really well. Additional pay off comes in the instrumental section that sees the song sooth slightly with some really nice, melancholic atmospheric backing. It also acts as a nice contrast to allow the drums, bass and riff to pound away at you repeatedly when it flows back into the heavy stuff.

Skin and Bones keeps the quality at a high level as well as offering more variety. Grooving riffs and drums in the intro get you moving before a switch up to a spoken word style vocal over a subdued drum beat grabs your attention. Sudden b;lasts of riffs and shouts create an aggressive effect coming off of the back of the spoken section. The chorus is great, really strong with banging vocals in a song that sounds important, like vocalist Alex De Costa is delivering something very personal. Instrumentally strong, there are riffs a plenty and of course that metallic tint to the tones. This is my favourite so far on a very good album.

Red Room continues with Lab Rat and then Impression of a Dream. Lab Rat is a short and to the point blast of intensity. Vocals spit fire over a furious drum beat and pummeling riffs. The screams of Lab Rat for the chorus offer more intensity in a song that demands a circle pit. Impression of a Dream is a little longer and drops the pace down, just a touch, for a more grooving start. The riffs are strong, the vocals angry, the drums intense – it’s Lock Horns doing Lock Horns things and it’s great. Meaty growls jump in as it builds towards a really clever chorus that drops some powerful melodic lines in. Around those choruses, expect to bang your head ferociously, mosh and feel fully engulfed in the atmosphere generated.

The Golden Mean is another short one but has a real impact across it’s run time. Crisp and punchy, the drums, bass and riffs smash out and make it impossible not to bang your head. The vocals are really strong again here, spitting with tons of power, gallons of venom and plenty of range. Mostly though, it feels like the track is there to just let your anger out a bit too and let loose. Something we will all welcome. That leads us into the final track on Red Room with Expressions of Madness.

Expressions of Madness isn’t quite a case of save the best for last. There are too many top quality songs on Red Room to state that, including my favourite, Skin and Bones, but this is another punchy and powerful track. The meandering riffing in the verses with big booming drum blasts creates an intense and dark vibe helped also by the maniacal vocal style. It’s involving, makes you snarl while just listening to it and offers a level of intensity many can only aspire to achieve. There are plenty of switch ups and beat, riff and vocal style and a huge headbanging and stomping section to see the track out at the end. What more could you want!

Lock Horns decided they needed to take extra time creating Red Room to feel fully satisfied that their output was right for them and we, the fans, reap the rewards of that brave and honest decision. No one will ever know what Red Room Mark 1 would have sounded like, but what we do know is the this release is hugely impressive and feels like a massive step up for them. Every track on this album feels like it has a place and is important while also each having a very clear identity. Musically astounding and vocally impressive, this new level comes more from just the creativity of a few additional strings on instruments. This feels like a band that have experienced personal growth, maturity and found confidence as well, then with that combining with that renewed creativity, they found the sweet spot and hit a bullseye.

Red Room is a huge release for the band and a massive treat for fans of Lock Horns and heavy music overall. The band took time to make this, now give them 30 minutes back on the 31st of May by checking out what will surely be an album of the year contender.

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  • Brendan Fisher

    Owner/Editor/Writer/YouTuber - Heavy Metal and reading, two things I have always loved so they are the two areas you will find most of my reviews. Post apocalyptic is my jam and I always have a book on the go and have for decades now. From a metal perspective, age has softened my inadequacies and I now operate with an open mind, loving many bands from many sub genres but having a particular admiration for the UK underground scene. In my other time, when not focused on Dad duties and work, I try to support the craft beer movement by drinking as much of it as I can and you will also find me out on the streets, walking. I love walking, I love exploring new places and snapping nature photos as I go.

Lock Horns - Red Room (The Distortion Project and Code 7 Distribution)

By Artist: Lock Horns

Album name: Red Room

Genre: Progressive Metal

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