Red Right Hand - Plotting your death 3.5/5

Reviewed: 5-8-09


1. Dead to me
2. You're right
3. Do you in
4. Machine
5. All about you
6. The end
7. Easy one
8. Funk
9. White knuckle fear
10. God said

It's funny. Usually when a CD gets licensed or released on the Locomotive imprint, metal review sites on the Internet swarm around it like pigs to, ermmm, mud or bees to honey. So it's something of a surprise to see that Locomotive's issuance of 'Plotting your death', the sophomore CD from long-running Massachusetts thrash/groovesters Red Right Hand has garnered very little fanfare and minimal press, whether good, bad or indifferent. I don't have any brilliant insights as to how 'Plotting your death' slipped through the cracks and passed into the blind spots of many metal webzines; however, as a public service and in an attempt to remedy this deficiency, here's one humble listener's take on a solid CD that, depending on your tastes, may well be worthy of your time.

I was a denizen of Boston (or, more accurately, the People's Republic of Cambridge) in the late 80s and through most of the 90s. Consequently, I logged countless hours (mostly when I should have been studying or working to pay for my tuition bills) in low-rent, gritty urban dives like The Channel, The Rat in Kenmore Square or the Middle East in Central Square checking out metal bands. During most of that time, the "Big 3" in Beantown metal circles were thrash masters Wargasm, the more traditional-metal-minded Meliah Rage, and of course the dirtier/more rockin' Seka/Strip Mind (who never took off, despite being signed to Madonna's record label and featuring Sully Erna in his pre-Godsmack days on the drums). Behind those Big 3 were a plethora of lesser known local acts, many of whom shared certain common identifiable features with the sound and style of the scene leaders. It's not that they stole from those acts, per se. It's just that everybody was feeding from the same trough and drinking from the same keg, leading to inevitable overlap and style-defining qualities.

Red Right Hand formed in 1998 and, although I don't recall ever seeing or hearing them before, their sound fits comfortably into the genre that I used to term "Boston metal", long before the Shadows Falls and Killswitch Engages came into being. The guitars are rooted in thrash, and the tempos are often speedy, such as on the scorcher "All about me" or "Easy one". Songs like opener "Dead to me" or "Machine" are highly reminiscent of that Meliah Rage crunch, straddling the line between traditional metal and thrash. Occasionally, however, the band veer into chunky groove bits and breakdown-laden sections (presumably in a nod to New England's ever-burgeoning hardcore scene), as on the less enjoyable "Stacker" and "The end". The vocals are raspy but powerful and have their own limited sense of melody, much like a combination of Wargasm's Bob Mayo or Meliah Rage's Mike Munro. Overall, the music has a no-nonsense, blue-collar, working-class feel to it, like so many Boston bands that I remember fondly. There's no pretension, no putting on airs with fancy epics, frilly melodies, or the like. Tellingly, the band don't even bother to put spaces of "dead air" in between the tracks; instead, each song bleeds immediately into the next, with no lollygagging, wasting time, or messing around. This is music made for chugging a pitcher of watered-down Coors Lite, eating a grinder at a hole-in-the-wall corner pizza joint, and then plugging in and cranking up until well past curfew. The resulting 51-minute musical excursion comes across as an undeniably authentic, organic, grease-under-the-fingernails kind of listening experience that, for me, brings back lots of happy memories of my formative years in metal.

That said, 'Plotting your death' probably has limited appeal for the Metal CD Ratings readership. If you're looking for retrothrash a la the Bay Area style, Red Right Hand are probably not for you. If you cringe at any hint of groove or hardcore in your metal, then move right along. But if you love bands like Meliah Rage and Wargasm (circa 'Suicide notes'), or even stuff like Uncle Slam (although they obviously weren't from Massachusetts), and if you crave honest, sincere, no-trends-no-b.s. metal, you might find a soft spot in your heart for this CD. 'Plotting your death' works for me, and carries me sonically back to places like Bill's Bar and Local 186 in Allston, where on many a weekend metal-crazed New England kids would brave the snowstorms, strap on their guitars and emulate their metal heroes. Take away the nostalgia factor and maybe I don't enjoy it as much, but there's always a place on my shelf for some quality, no-frills, energetic metal, and in that department Red Right Hand deliver the goods.




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