Alternative rockers RED ELEVEN aren’t exactly a new face on the scene. In fact, we’ve been enjoying their singles and shows since back when Tuonela and Musicalypse were two separate magazines! Their fun and creative modern alternative rock is often a breath of fresh air in the often over-saturated Finnish metal scene. Their latest album, “Handled with Chaos,” was released a month ago on April 23rd, 2021, via Inverse Records.
The album opens with the familiar title track, which is a punchy, upbeat rocking track that is begging to be played live. It also stands out for its creative use of synths that keep the song sounding fresh while backing Tony Kaikkonen‘s vocal performance. “Before I Fall” starts on a slower, gentler note with softer vocals. It pushes a little harder when it reaches the melodic chorus, but surprised me by being a relatively laid-back track on the whole (in a good way). They turn it up gently for “Universe,” which is nevertheless still quite laidback and has a very ’90s feel to its sound. Songs like this make me feel like I would gladly enjoy RED ELEVEN as an opening band for any of the alternative greats, like U2 or PEARL JAM or FAITH NO MORE.
“Against My Will” has a wonky and fun, yet heavy intro that immediately draws the listener’s attention in thanks to its surprising use of digeridoo! “S.N.O.T.” is the mid-album track where the band decided to bring a bit more energy into the mix. After the relatively chill first half of the album, “S.N.O.T.” and the catchy and singalong-able “Nothing Left to Hide” are a welcome bit of spice in the mix, bringing out more synths and a fiercer dimension from the rhythm section. “Die With Honor” may have a heroic name, but it has one of the most chill guitar solos to be found on the album, along with a really great chorus.
Groovy and rhythmic “My Own Space” is a more psychedelic track, making it an easy personal highlight for me thanks to its stylish drums and funky bass. “Dark Water” is one of the most diverse songs on the album, with a heavy metal -heaviness combined with fantastic ’80s synths, harsh grunge-y vocals, and a really really great rhythm section. The album then winds to a close with it’s longest track, “Half a Life, Full Circle,” clocking in at nearly 7½ minutes. This piece begins with a slow piano intro that rises into a mid-tempo but powerful song that brings a bit of saxophone into the mix as it reaches its 5-minute mark; it might seem out of place, but I assure you it just adds a bit of extra style to the track. It slows down, giving a bit of respite before coming back for a strong finish – a very good closer.
Admittedly, I was expecting and even hoping for a more upbeat album; however, I’m always happy to be thrown out of the expectation zone and still thoroughly enjoy myself. While “Handled With Chaos” is not nearly as chaotic as its title or title track might hint, the slower, melodic pacing really works to the band’s advantage and all of the experiments they did with alternative sounds like digeridoo and saxophone worked out fabulously. Ultimately, if you need a little break from the usual hard rock an heavy metal, RED ELEVEN‘s latest album might be exactly the palate cleanser that you need, as they prove that it’s not about speed, but style.
- Handled with Chaos
- Before I Fall
- Against My Will
- Starry Eyes
- Nothing Left to Hide
- Die With Honor
- My Own Space
- Dark Water
- Half a Life, Full Circle
Tony Kaikkonen – vocals
Teemu Liekkala – guitars, backing vocals
Petteri Vaalimaa – bass
Pasi Pasanen – drums