No longer the group of upstart newbies from just north of Boston that raped the metal world in 2002 with its ferocious debut Fused Together in Revolving Doors, the Red Chord settles into a respectable maturity on its third album, Prey for Eyes. In the past, the band’s tetanus-tight mongrel of grindcore pummel, tech-metal asides and hardcore dude-ism out-brutalled and out-weirded the competition. Prey for Eyes reigns in some of the savageness — groove bombs like “Send the Death Storm” and “Tread on the Necks of Kings” funnel the band’s schizophrenic storm-blast into leaner, more concentrated structures than ever before.
The compactness means that Prey for Eyes feels a little bit safe, but it also gives it a nice sturdy skeleton for the Red Chord to flex a few new muscles. Guitar solos and guest vocalists (Nate Newton from Converge and Jonny Davy from Job for a Cowboy) take the emphasis off of the familiar stop-start frothing; Mirai Kawashima of Japanese metal band Sigh fuels the melodic instrumental “It Came from Over There” with fat saw-tooth keyboards and a faux-choir, thrusting the Red Chord into unstaked smiley territory.
In a metal environment that strives for previously unriffable riffs, plastic technique can get pretty common. So it’s extra special that the Red Chord’s guitarists Mike “Gunface” McKenzie and Jonny Fay (no longer playing with the band) can place “sexy” and “murderous” alongside “technical” in their rhythmic vocabulary; drummer Brad Fickeisen gets a nod just for keeping up with them, and an additional nod-cum-headbang for his precision volcano action independent of the rest.
Prey for Eyes would be a perfectly good album with a frontman half as “charming” as Guy Kozowyk (also the founder of Blackmarket Activities records), but homie subverts the band’s deathly adrenaline with a dollop of absurdity that’s rare for extreme metal — terror and laughter give each other a high five at the end of “Responsibles,” as Kozowyk roars “Where’s my fucking barbecue? I know you have it!” Funny thing is, the dude seems like a nice guy. He wears Abercrombie and loafers onstage and actually smiles while he’s barking at his audience. He probably wouldn’t mind if you asked him nicely for his barbecue. Just remember to offer some to your neighbor. Prey for Eyes is for sharing.