As most of you know, I usually like to review a few alternative releases each year, as I am a big fan of the alternative rock/metal scene. I am pretty excited about some of the upcoming releases in that genre, and the first one to release is especially of interest to me. Vex Red is back after what seems like forever, and their new EP “Give Me The Dark” released on October 4th. I have to admit that I’ve probably listened to it 20 times so far.
Vex Red released their debut album “Start With A Strong and Persistent Desire” all the way back in 2002. I still listen to that album regularly, though. At the time, they seemed like they were part of the fresh wave of bands that resulted from the sheer storm that was Linkin Park’s debut in 1999, though Vex Red did release an EP that same year. Vex Red combined alternative rock/metal with electronica, but did not have the R&B or rap elements that LP had. The result was an album that was heavy, dark, and utterly raw. I absolutely love it to this day.
I assumed that Vex Red was no more, and, indeed, I think they were non-existent for many years. I remember seeing them release a single a couple years ago, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Fast forward to 2019, and they are releasing an EP? This was totally unexpected for me, especially when the alternative scene has been on the decline of late.
Vex Red hails from London. With all that time, you’d think that the line up would be completely different, but, in fact, all but one member has returned. The lineup today is Terry Abbott on vocals and guitar, Ant Forbes on guitars and keys, Nick Goulding on bass and guitar, Keith Lambert on bass and programming, and Dave Neale on drums.
I’ve always loved Vex Red’s razor-edged, raw tone. The lyrics have always been on the brutally emotional end, and their original album dropped many f-bombs, to my glee as a teenager. But I’ve grown up, and the band has, too. The new EP still falls inside the genre range that I expected, but the band has definitely matured and changed. The music still has edge, with lots of distorted guitars, shadowy ambient and electronic portions, and extremely emotive vocals from Terry (his voice is instantly recognizable for me). But, at the same time, the music feels a bit more adult, as in developed and steady. Some of the angst of their youth has disappeared, and I absolutely appreciate that. One of my biggest pet peeves is when bands cannot develop in that fashion, and they end up trying to write the same songs they did 20 years ago. They forget that their fans have grown up with them, and that they can handle new ideas and at least a little bit of levelheadedness. We have different emotions and interests now, after all. Vex Red has not failed in this area, but has actually excelled!
The EP has five songs, so I’ll mention each one. The release starts with “Tarantula”, the single, and this song is real grower. I honestly wasn’t impressed at first, but there is something about the poetic and balladic chorus that draws me back, along with the hanging ambiance. “Burn This Place” follows and was also a single the band released a few years ago. I loved it then, and I love it now for its drive and winding guitar work. Those two songs are rock solid for me, but the last three are my favorites.
“Air” is a great song with huge vocals from Terry, and this overall darker feeling. It burgeons and pummels our ears with great atmosphere. “So I Can Sleep” is amazing. It starts out on a low key, almost electronic note, but slowly and surely builds itself to a huge chorus. “Give me the dark, oh my Goooood”, just typing that, I got chills down my spine. This song is seriously good, but it’s actually “Lake” that gets the label of “favorite” here.
“Lake” is 7 minutes long, and rides the edges of “progressive”, as Vex Red has always done. This song, though, lacks much of the distortion of the other four, or of anything the band has created thus far. In fact, the song doesn’t feel much like “rock” at all, feeling much more like something Anathema would create. That obviously score major points for me, as the band is exploring new ideas. The song, too, is melodic, beautiful, and rises to a grand second half with orchestration, showgazey guitars, and multiple choruses that are each emotional and desperate affairs. This song is fantastic any which way you hear it.
So, Vex Red are back, and I daresay that they might be better than ever. While I still love the angst and raw nature of their 2002 debut, this EP comes across as mature, developed, and multifaceted. The band has grown and has new ideas, and “Give Me The Dark” is ample proof of that. Here’s to hoping that the band gives us a full sophomore album soon!
Find Vex Red online: