Oh hey, it’s Redlight King—remember them? No? That’s okay, there’s no reason you really would. They’re one of those radio-rock bands best known for soundtrack contributions, which is effectively shorthand for really having not a lot going for them otherwise, but having enough clout to justify talking the talk anyway. To be fair, they’ve also had some presence on the US rock charts, but as with so much hard rock of this stripe hitting its peak in the early 2010s, that’s translated to approximately zero groundswell these days. If it weren’t for vague name recognition, you’d be forgiven for just ignoring this altogether and letting it gather dust of its own accord. Bands like this trying to keep pace off their own depleting fumes are so dime-a-dozen, and there’s more chance of the heat death of the universe happening tomorrow than any sort of spike from Redlight King.
So on that note, don’t plan for the apocalypse just yet, folks, because In Our Blood is, down to the letter, the album that every radio-rock band turns in when they’ve completely spent their finite resources of inspiration and talent. Even among their ankle-deep pool, this is impressively shoddy, and completely devoid of anything that can make even the most basic rock music likable. Even from just scant memories, Redlight King were leagues better than this, though that’s what happens when bands experiencing the briefest sniff of success see fit to continue—their already-limited half-life gets whittled down more and more, until eventually you’re left with this.
Perhaps the general outcome isn’t a surprise, then, but the extent sure is. Across In Our Blood, there’s barely a single moment where Redlight King don’t sound weak and feckless, unable to even reach out for a big hook or riff for the chance to land on something. Instead, any and all guitars are flat, tuneless, drizzled-out slurry; the drums are frequently canned and always uninspired; basslines may pop up on occasion but largely have no function; and Mark Kasprzyk might just be the single most uninspiring frontman working in this sector of rock music.
Let’s just focus on him for a second, because he’s really the microcosm of everything this album falls flat on its face from. He’s introduced on Cold Killer—a song about being some badass, retributory rebel—with nothing close to fire or fervour, even falling out of time on occasion. On Heavy Heart—the album’s customary ballad—he’s mewling and small as anything. On Raise The Dead—a song designed to extol the joys of rock ‘n’ roll—his own lack of strength is magnified by gang vocals that make it sound as though there’s literally one other person behind him.
Notice the problem at all? Between the band that Redlight King are and the band they want to be, there’s a miles-wide chasm that’s impossible to ignore. At least with most in the simple, no-nonsense butt-rock set, they can go for broke enough to sell the power fantasy, which is clearly what Redlight King are under the illusion they’re doing. When the first three or four songs are all about going the nebulous distance and rising up to full height after some kind of adversity, they themselves think they’ve got that sort of power. They want to be rock juggernauts and soar to the top, which makes the faceplant they make at every juncture all the more painful to witness.
In fact, let’s just say it—it sounds amateurish. At no point on this album do Redlight King sound like a band approaching 15 years of existence, nor a band who’ve been awarded the opportunities they have. Because it really can’t be stressed how bad this sounds, and how ineffective on the purest level it is, especially in the guitars. Maybe you can cut them some slack on Paid Off where an effort is made to be somewhat rougher and grittier; elsewhere, there’s no body or mass there, instead just flatly trudging along as a means of filling space. It’s the lamest possible approach to this kind of rock music, as it shows an aversion to any kind of character traits—be they positive or negative—that could make Redlight King feel like anything.
Instead, they’re just a copy of a copy of the concept of rock music, stripped down to its most boilerplate essence to where even that’s too ostentatious for them. There’s just an attitude of being unable to commit to anything whatsoever slathered across this album, where Redlight King are evidently terrified of trying anything even remotely new, and don’t even sound like they care. Their idea of ‘revolution’ is Do You Wanna Live, where brief, unelaborated mentions of jails and politicians probably fills some kind of self-imposed quota for ‘saying something’, even if it might be the most gutless, underdeveloped ‘statement’ put to record in years. Maybe even decades.
But isn’t that just par for the course here? Nothing else on In Our Blood even entertains the notion of doing something worthwhile, so why would one individual song? After all, even that’s more effort than Redlight King seem willing to give, when it’s far easier to just dribble out the uninspired skeleton of an album and call it a day. The real ripper is that, even if the work were done to build this up into something more fully-formed, it’d still be way too derivative and clunky to be called good. That’s the level that Redlight King are settling on—an album that basically amounts to a first draft, where the only hope of redemption is a total overhaul into something brand new. Even bad bands would strive for more than this—hobbyists would want more than this—and the fact that this is coming from a recognised act with multiple charting hits under their belt just makes the shamelessness stink all the more.
For fans of: bar bands who get paid in beer and chicken wings
‘In Our Blood’ by Redlight King is released on 3rd March on AFM Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall