September 25, 2013

Anakin: “Send/Receive”

September 24, 2013

Split decision

Shelter Red have always been on the cutting edge of creativity. Their latest release, The Split Sabre, could’ve been sharper.

A two-sided blade of bombast and banality, the third album forged by Portland instrumental gladiators Stephan Hawkes and Austin Crook severs ties with their previous recordings in form and function. It sheathes the hefty power chords of Masters of the Universe and the ass-kicking arpeggios that attack unmercifully on Strike a Mortal Terror, making it more Damocles than Excalibur.

Shelter Red seem either too reticent or weary to duel to the death on several fronts as the songs battle each other to a draw. “A Truth Uncovered Should Stay Hidden,” “Slow Boat to China,” “Narcosynthesis” and the title track are fierce but feeble feints, a surprising retreat to safer ground for a group resisting the tyranny of traditionalism. Hawkes and Crook summon sufficient strength to storm the castle with “Infringement,” “The Proper Path” and “Man Is Not an Animal,” coup de grâces which slay any qualms about them wholly relinquishing the massive assaults that spearheaded their erstwhile conquests.

Not as piercing as its predecessors, The Split Sabre nonetheless carves an impressive swath. Unlike most bands who’ve lived to fight another day, Shelter Red has avoided falling on its sword.