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RedBelt – Beautiful Surround

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RedBelt will remind you of a lot of bands, but you won’t be able to name a single one. They are a talented four piece who manage to invoke the spirit of various forms without ever establishing a clear reference point in any specific direction. Instead, the thirteen songs on their debut album prove they’ve done a superb job of blending those various sounds into a style that is all their own without ever sounding groundbreaking. The vast majority of the songs on their first album Beautiful Surround lean towards uptempo punk rock inspired guitar workouts, but there’s no shortage of vocal and melodic excellence in even the most raucous efforts. Some might call them a rootsy version of Green Day, but the songwriting fueling these tracks is, almost uniformly, tilted in a different direction that Billie Joe Armstrong’s band and other similar outfits. Beautiful Surround has something for every rock fan – the classic rock devotee, the punk rocker, power pop, and alternative rock fan alike can find much here to enjoy and admire.

“Crossed Wires” gets things off to a very rousing start. On this track, RedBelt are clearly intent on bowling over the listener and quickly succeed. The drumming from Jeff Holden and Mike Mann’s lead guitar playing, in particularly, set the song ablaze from its opening seconds and the fire never dims. They go in a slightly different, more considered direction on “American Mercy” without sacrificing any of their energy or attitude. The lyrical material is interpreted quite convincingly by lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Kevin Brown, but the rhythm section is a highlight once against thanks to the authoritative foundation that lay down for the band’s two guitarists. They turn towards a much more solidly classic rock sound on the track “Got It Made (I Know, You Know)” and a greater degree of their melodic talents are on display for the audience to hear, but the track following that goes even further. Kevin Brown’s acoustic rhythm guitar gives “Shoot It All The Time” a denser sound than some of the punkier numbers and the addition of Mike Mann’s slide guitar work introduces a bluesy sound to the track that’s quite welcome.

Alternative rock takes its turn on the title song. There is some flash guitar work inserted at key points in the song, but Mann and Brown’s guitars take a much more orchestral approach in this song. It isn’t nearly as uptempo as the earlier or later tracks, but it certainly isn’t leaden – there’s an urgency here that comes, once again, from Holden’s drumming. “Sweet Release” returns listeners to the outright blast of pure punk energy heard on so many of the songs while they manage a great mix of punk and classic rock aspects on the song “Pretty Little Pieces”. “Bones” is the final jewel on a strong debut. They forego much of the guitar driven histrionics defining so much of the release and the rhythm section’s influence comes much more to the fore here. RedBelt’s decision to end Beautiful Surround on a much more dramatic, even cinematic, note than they began it mitigates, to a certain extent, its length and the over-abundance of punk rock tracks. This, however, is an excellent opening salvo in their career despite whatever minor flaws might be present in the recording and writing.

8 out of 10 stars

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Scott Wigley