Review: Red Mourning – Under Punishment’s Tree

France based Red Mourning has been around for some time now, 15 years to be exact. It was 2003 when pure luck brought together four metalheads who, as luck would have it, had the same vision on music. They decided to team up as a band of self-proclaimed badasses who wreaked havoc on the Paris underground scene, playing a mix of influences brought to the band by each individual member. As the years passed the autodidacts grew, letting their music evolve into a peculiar grab bag of styles including, in no particular order, hardcore, blues, punk, death metal and grunge. After releasing two demos early in their career they delivered their first full-length in 2008 and went on to release two more before unleashing their latest creation on to the world in 2018: Their fourth full-length called Under Punishment’s Tree. The name Red Mourning refers to the mourning color of the Delta slaves who introduced blues to the world. The band currently has four members, again in no particular order, Hoog for the vocals, Alex on guitar, Sebastien on bass and Aurelien on drums.

When you put such a wide variety of styles into one mix you’re bound to create a rare, unique sound making it hard to even theoretically describe. However when listening to Under Punishment’s Tree it becomes clear things aren’t as extreme and complicated as you’d expect in advance. Sure, all influences mentioned are to be found in Red Mourning’s music, but to say it is a hybrid mix is well exaggerated. Roughly there’s two types of songs on this album, the one being strongly metal-oriented the other distinctly blues-oriented. Sadly there’s only the occasional more or less subtle in-song meeting between the two. The structure of the metal-oriented songs consists of strong, tight riffs backed by a solid yet almost unnoted bass lines and guided by complicated, at times rhythm-defying drum lines, which, I might add, are executed to perfection. To transform this backbone into an actual song it’s augmented with oppressive, aggressive vocal lines and a couple of guitar solos. The blues songs on the other hand are characterized by a relatively uncomplicated song structure, a damp, heavy atmosphere and melodic, at times delicate vocals. The result is an interesting metal album with aggressive, strong, hardcore-influenced songs, which is mostly due to the aggressive, imposing vocal lines and the occasional blast beat, alternated with sweltering blues. In my opinion best exemplifying the rough side of Red Mourning is Grow My Feathers where Chained To The Stones is the best example of their more delicate blues side. However, the pinnacle of Under Punishment’s Tree, again in my opinion, is Dying Days where both style combine and clash at the same time.

There is no doubt 15 years of practice and self-teaching has made great musicians out of the guys from Red Mourning. They all know what to do with either their instrument or vocal chords, making Under Punishment’s Tree a great album to listen to, not in the last place due to the remarkable combination of styles. I personally would like to hear the styles intertwine in the songs a bit more, like in Dying Days, to make it more hybrid, more organic. At the moment the styles are separated too much in my opinion. Nevertheless this still is well worth the attention of every metal fan, especially those with a taste for hardcore-oriented metal. The blues fans will find something to their liking here as well, but in all honesty, the blues part is significantly smaller. Time well spent.

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