RedBelt – Beautiful Surround
There’s no shortage of inspiration or songwriting intelligence on RedBelt’s thirteen song debut Beautiful Surround. The only major knock you can levy against this debut is that the band seems a bit overcharged and too reliant on uptempo rockers, but exuberance rather than amateurishness is the likely culprit. RedBelt blasts through the majority of the songs with full throttle aggression that they temper with some melodic flash and strong vocals. There is some diversity here; namely, the album’s second half finds them stretching some and not being so dependent on guitar heroics to get over with the audience. There’s no question, however, of their professionalism and skill. RedBelt never succumb to self indulgence and even the abundance of uptempo rockers here are still well constructed and flirt with outright chaos without ever running off the rails.
They kick things off with a ball of fire. “Crossed Wires” defines the band’s punk-infused energy as a musical fireball not without melody, but drummer Jeff Holden lays down a monstrous percussion track that makes this an aural battering ram. “American Mercy” comes from a similar place, but it’s far more of the nuanced songwriting that RedBelt can pull out and impress listeners with when they aren’t more fixated on simply overwhelming the listener with musical energy. The chorus is an indisputable highpoint and vocalist Kevin Brown excels there with a sharp, deeply emotive vocal. “Got It Made (I Know, You Know)” begins with a great classic rock guitar riff play cleanly and with a slight twang to its tone. The band plays the song as forceful, muscular shuffle and it crackles with life and electricity throughout.
“Beautiful Surround”, the title song, is another indication of the band’s latent talent for much more subtle textures and approaches than furious punk rock riffing. This is much more in an alternative rock mode than many of the other tracks and the chiming-like quality to the main riff, coupled with the band’s existing predisposition towards melody, helps it rise above the pack. “Cold” is an all-out excursion into hooky power pop with enthusiastic vocals and a great compositional approach to the guitars from rhythm guitarist Kevin Brown and lead guitarist Mike Mann. Mann turns in some scintillating lead guitar on this release, but more importantly, he shows time and time again that he knows exactly when to hang back and serve the song in a more low-key way.
“30 Seconds” runs much longer than the title indicates, but it’s certainly the shortest song on Beautiful Surround and doesn’t waste a note. RedBelt successfully marries their punk rock attitude with a classic rock vibe on the track “Pretty Little Pieces”. The best parts of this song, however, aren’t the fine guitars, but a great rhythm section performance along with a memorable Kevin Brown vocal. The album’s final song, “Hard Light”, is the clearest indication on Beautiful Surround of the band’s ability to twist and spin their formula in unexpected directions. It closes the album on a creative high and bodes well for the band’s future releases.
8 out of 10 stars