Redwood Hill - Ender review


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Band: Redwood Hill
Album: Ender
Release date: March 2020

01. Singularity
02. No Horizon
03. Descender
04. Nihil
05. Leben
06. Black Heart
07. Absence
08. Collider
09. Polar
10. The Passage
11. Ender

Redwood Hill's longest album yet is also their least varied, and walks the thin line between "focused" and "repetitive".

There has been a degree of debate regarding what "post-black metal" actually constitutes; however, if one were to class it as post-metal with black metal elements (or vice versa), one could place Denmark's Redwood Hill under this umbrella, just about. Primarily a post-metal band in the vein of Amenra, the group also employs black metal vocals and guitar elements, including chord choices and substantial use of tremolo, all coming together to create a bleak, cold atmosphere. Ender is the third part of a supposed trilogy of albums, but comes over five years after the quickfire release of first Descender and then Collider. These two albums both fell within the 40-minute ballpark; in contrast, Ender sails comfortably past the hour mark. One might expect with this long gap between releases and lengthy album duration that Ender would be their most varied and sprawling album yet; however, it appears that Redwood Hill worked out what it was about their sound that they liked most and knuckled down on that, because this is a very sonically consistent listen pretty much entirely throughout.

I said in the previous paragraph that this band's sound is in the vein of Amenra, but I've never felt it to be such an obvious comparison as it is here. It's not quite as clear a similarity as that of Lethvm's Acedia from last year, partly due to the divergence in vocal styles, but the soft/hard transitions, wall-of-sound crushing riffs, layered build-ups and sinister atmosphere overlap substantially between the Danes and the Belgians. There are other points of reference for sure; as on previous records, early Cult Of Luna comes to mind, particularly Salvation. Nevertheless, from the opening few minutes of lengthy album opener "Singularity", through to the likes of "Black Heart" and "The Passage", the gradual rampings up of intensity, suffocating explosions of aggression and bleak sense of hopelessness always bring Amenra back to mind. Compared to previous records, Ender feels even more entrenched in the post-metal camp than the black metal sphere; there's still the shrieks and bouts of tremolo riffing (see "Absence" for a good example), but the song structures, percussion and a lot of the guitar work bear very limited resemblance to anything that could be convincingly classed as black metal.

For the most part, the singular approach to songwriting isn't a major issue - the album isn't varied, but they pull of this specific sound very well; the music is imbued with real raw emotion, and they're similarly capable of writing devastating heaviness and subdued melancholy. "Singularity", with its tom-dominated drumming, perfectly judges its descent from ominous sustained guitar noise into delicately layered clean guitars and finally bludgeoning walls of sound. "Polar" teases in its opening quiet moments of the malice that will be unleashed when the tremolo guitars arrive, and delivers one of the most satisfying build-ups on the record in its second half. Furthermore, "The Passage" makes for a fitting last full song on the album, drawing every last ounce of dread from the single riff that runs from its midway point right through to the end. Last, callbacks to all three albums from the group to date are included in the manner of brief instrumental interludes named after each record, all of which make for welcome changes of pace compared with the meat and potatoes sound of the full songs, with "Ender" acting as a suitable epilogue following the oppressive closing minutes of "The Passage".

Still, Descender and Collider, despite being far shorter than Ender, both covered more musical territory, typically to great effect. Collider got very good use out of clean vocals, most notably on "Albedo" with the male/female duet, but also with group vocals on other tracks, none of which appear here. Similarly, there is none of the exciting lead guitar work ("Poseidon") or ventures into faster tempos ("September") that cameoed on Descender. And when you have 70 minutes of basically the same sound with no real change in tempo, vocal style or instrumental approach, it can be a challenge to maintain listener interest. For the most part, I would say Redwood Hill have the chops to achieve this, but I'd be lying if I said my mind doesn't start drifting off at times during the second half of Ender.

Similar to Huntsmen's new album, Ender sees a group that previously kept things somewhat brief really pushing the envelope lengthwise. However, although Redwood Hill have shown a capacity to mix things up on previous records, this time round they really just decided to write the same style over and over, and whilst they've generally written it very effectively, the sheer single-mindedness means that listeners aren't particularly rewarded for sticking along for the journey. Hopefully on their next album (if it comes, who knows what the conclusion of this trilogy means for the band), they can either be a bit more adventurous with their writing, or a bit more ruthless with their editing.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 5
Production: 8


Written on 24.03.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 2   Visited by: 35 users
24.03.2020 - 23:17
This was the first time I heard of this band, and it didn't really blow me away
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.

2020 goodies
24.03.2020 - 23:47
Written by RaduP on 24.03.2020 at 23:17

This was the first time I heard of this band, and it didn't really blow me away

Give Albedo and Tabula Rasa from Collider a go, they're my favourite songs by them - in general, I think Collider is easily their best album

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