Red Animal War – Breaking in an Angel

Red Animal War
Breaking in an Angel

Texas’ Red Animal War do some interesting things on this, their debut full-length. I really enjoy these songs, and Breaking in an Angel was stuck in my CD player for dozens of listens. Unfortunately, I can’t get over how much this band sounds like assorted other bands I listen to. Granted, I listen to them because I like the music, and Red Animal War provide enough alterations and energy to warrant their own listen, but I feel a bit let down during some of these individual songs.
To start, Red Animal War greatly remind me of another Deep Elm band: Seven Storey Mountain, who, in turn, take quite a few pages from Fugazi. Red Animal War play a driving, angry version of toned down hardcore meets emo, equal parts Hot Water Music, the Jazz June, and Jawbox. Aggressively changing rhythms, vocals that go from a croon to a growl, and driving guitar lines make up these 11 powerful songs.
From the start, I’m reminded of other bands, with “Weak Bones May Break” feeling like a hybrid of Fugazi and Burning Airlines – a kind of angry rhythm over crisp and slightly melodic guitar lines. “Anthem” slows down nicely, and the vocals work better here, adding multiple singers at parts to create a moody, intense song that changes rhythms and mood about halfway through, suddenly taking on a booming rhythm and incorporating sampled conversations. I get the sense that the remaining songs follow those two courses: either loud and angry or more slow tempo and urgent. “Safe in the Air” is blast after blast, changing guitar lines and rhythm almost continuously but with nice melodic and moody moments, and “Starter” is an all-out, scream-filled rocker that I swear was on Seven Storey Mountain’s last album.
Another stand-out is the more rollicking “Dark Country,” which almost has hints of a country-ish foundation to its rocking basis, and you’ll find yourself bobbing your head, whereas songs like “Blue Shift” and “From Cold to Colder” are much more angry and growling, loud and in-your-face tracks. “Heath” uses some nice, almost math-rocky guitar and rhythm bursts for a complicated yet very impressive song, another favorite, while “The Disappearing Act” is another quieter and urgent, more emotionally-tinged song that brings in some nice female vocals for a change. And the album closes with a nice, melodic instrumental, “Get-Away Driver,” which shows off even more of the precision of the artists here.
When all is said and done, Red Animal War impress me as a powerful and talented band, but not yet the most original band. This is their first full album, and they ask on their website that their fans stick by them as they explore a new direction. I hope they keep the urgency and intensity but develop something of their own sound, which will make their next album even better.