Red Giant’s first album in six years finds the Cleveland four-piece come down to earth. Where 2004’s Devil Child Blues — and even more so their earlier albums, Ultra Magnetic Glowing Sound and Psychoblaster and the Misuse of Power – was spacier, looser, more open, the newer output on Dysfunctional Majesty (their second offering through Small Stone) is tight, rigid, professional-sounding. The tracks are not given to exploration, but rather, follow the guitars right through to the kind of straightforward heavy groove rock that has become synonymous with Small Stone’s name the last several years.
You wouldn’t know it by their level of output, but Red Giant mark two decades of existence in 2010. On Dysfunctional Majesty, guitarist/vocalists Alex Perekrest and Damien Perry and bassist Brian Skinner (all three original members) are joined on drums by Eric Matthews (ex-Pro-Pain), and while it’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from Red Giant, the maturity of the band still shines through in contrast to Devil Child Blues. Nothing against that album – it rocked plenty hard and plenty fast – but Dysfunctional Majesty is a different level entirely. The ease with which Red Giant channels labelmates Dixie Witch on “Million Point Buck” and “It Doesn’t Seem Right” speaks to the level of consciousness in the songwriting. The woman-as-car metaphor on “Season of the Bitch” may be overdone and cliché, but at least Red Giant do it well and know it’s the riffs that really matter in driving the song home.
It’s Perekrest and Perry (golly those names are similar) leading the way on most of Dysfunctional Majesty, providing moments of über-groove on early album highlight “Never Touch the Lens” as Perry makes a killer solo seem easy. If there’s anywhere on the record where the material gets stretched out, it’s on centerpiece cut “Silver Shirley,” which boasts some saxophone free jazz later matched on guitar, doomier riffing, and a more expansive feel. Helping that is the fact that it’s also the longest song on Dysfunctional Majesty at 7:14, most of the added time going to the already-mentioned elements and some well-mixed bass warmth from Skinner. It feels like an album climax, but comes early. I’d say it’s the close of a vinyl Side A, but at just under 67 minutes, the album is way too long for a single LP. Maybe a double.
That’s another issue. On one level, you can understand why Red Giant would want to include as much as possible on Dysfunctional Majesty, given the years passed since Devil Child Blues, but with the last 12 minutes of the record devoted to the instrumental jam “Weird Problems” and the AC/DC cover “Let There be Rock,” I’m not convinced that’s the best way that time could have been spent. The two tracks prior, “Herds of Something Else” and “Lamentations,” are shorter, tighter, and better suited to Dysfunctional Majesty as a whole – though when it comes down to it I’d rather hear Red Giant talk about unleashed mutants as they do on the earlier “Easy, Killer” than the politics of “Lamentations” – and it’s not that the finale feels tacked onto the album, just that by then, Dysfunctional Majesty has already peaked. Maybe redistributed, rearranged in the tracklisting, the results would be different.
Perhaps with Matthews added to the lineup Red Giant will get another record out in less than half a decade – that’s not a knock on the band; life happens – but even if they don’t, Dysfunctional Majesty is loaded with enough of the Heavy to last at least a couple of those years. It’s a strong album for Small Stone, who’ve had a killer 2010 with releases from Solace, The Brought Low, Sasquatch and others, and definitely the most accomplished Red Giant effort to date. For any fan of heavy rock who’s gotten into the genre in the time since 2004, it’s time to get yourself introduced.Cleveland, Ohio, Red Giant, Small Stone