Shelter Red - Strike a Mortal Terror
Sound Vs Silence
Melodic Instrumental Hard Rock/Metal
7 songs (31'17")
Release year: 2009
Shelter Red, Sound Vs Silence
Reviewed by Adam
With most instrumental bands, it becomes clear that vocals would probably ruin the experience. As far as I'm concerned, a singer would only do harm to the overall sound of the likes of Pelican or most post-rock groups. Most of the time these types of bands use sweeping crescendo driven soundscapes, a type of music that does not lend itself to a vocal accompaniment. It is for this reason that Portland’s Shelter Red are quite an interesting listen. Their second full-length, Strike a Mortal Terror, genuinely sounds like an instrumental version of a modern melodic and technical hard rock/metal outfit.

This is one band where you can actually imagine what adding a singer to the mix might sound like. Now, that said, would I recommend it? Not in this case. The two gentlemen that comprise the band, Stephan Hawkes (Guitar, drums) and Austin Crook (bass), do a fine if not quite spectacular job of keeping things interesting with some excellent riffing and pace. One of the first aspects of the band that really jumps out is the sound of Hawkes’ guitar, which is highly crisp and abundantly melodic, almost akin to that of Adam Jones from Tool at times. In terms of heaviness, I would rate them just above some of Don Caballero’s past work but under the likes of Pelican’s Australasia. The music generally glides between charging hard rock and technical lead progressions, a perfect example of which is the excellent track Inferno. The pace varies, and the guitar sound alternates between lush riffing and some screaming leads that are the prime illustration of the Tool-esque guitar sound I referred to earlier. Hawkes also does a fine job of harmonizing with himself at times, such as in This is a Lost Ambition, which contains some of the more metallic riffing on the album. The soaring melodic leads are used on nearly every track, and while they do give the album as a whole somewhat of a familiar feeling, they by and large enhance the sound tremendously. Witness the shredding and piercing line toward the end of the closing track Last Rites for the Dying as evidence. Of course, most of the punch would be lost were it not for some outstanding production, which the band handled themselves I might add.

There are many moments where the guitar tones sound very similar to a band you have heard before (at least for me). I do not mean this as a knock on the band in any way; in fact I enjoyed this aspect. In addition to some of the guitar sounds I already touched on, A Confusion of Tongues was chock full of moments where I was saying to myself “That guitar tone sounds so familiar!” but I couldn’t put my finger on any of the bands or albums the song was reminding me of (If anyone listens to this track and has these type of thoughts where actual names come to mind, please let me know!). This was also the most technical guitar ride on the album (just ahead of the opening title track), containing a constantly moving progression of rising and falling leads.

Shelter Red have done quite an admirable job on Strike a Mortal Terror overall. It’s not groundbreaking by any means, but it is a solid effort, impeccably produced and performed. It’s also very short at just over 31 minutes, making it easy to thrown in and listen to all the way through. If you crave a highly melodic hard rock/metal sound with a fair amount of technicality thrown in, I would highly recommend this band and this album.
Killing Songs :
Inferno, This is a Lost Ambition, A Confusion of Tongues
Adam quoted 71 / 100
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