Shelter Red is a progressive rock band from Portland, Oregon, featuring Stephan Hawkes on guitar, Austin Crook on bass and Brian Fell on drums. As an instrumental band it can be quite a task ensuring your material stays fresh and inviting, this is one obstacle Shelter Red certainly have no issue with as they constantly devise new ways to reinvigorate their boundless technical abilities and push the boundaries of their craft. “Beast of the Field” proves to be one of their most refined and cohesive efforts yet, displaying that a three piece can provide a sound just as powerful and substantial as other member-laden bands.
“Chained on a Burning Lake” kicks the album into gear with a hypnotic guitar like contribution accompanied by a signature frantic polyrhythmic drive that has become an unmistakable facet of the bands armory. The angular guitar tones are ever present and sound bone crushingly clear while partnering the devious shifts in pace. The song almost gives off the vibe of a jam environment, walking that fine line between instrumental mastery and confident self-indulgence.
Shelter Red never let up, and on the second track “Transgressour” they sound ready to shatter your skull with the song’s sheer force and density. They leave you gasping for air once you have digested the sheer array of complexity and brute force on show here.
Shelter Red strikes a balance between heavy-hitting riffing, and glorious leads motifs, all championed by a master-class rhythm section. The time-signatures and tempo changes are mere tools to bring forth something that is unique, evocative, and wonderfully euphoric.
The title track, “Beast of the Field” envelops you into their world of heavy progressive rock; there is a lot going on in this track which makes it all the more fun taking in the dynamics of the piece.
It’s very easy to come away from listening to a lot of technical rock feeling a little empty. Beneath the showmanship and undeniable talent, the genre is often guilty of failing to invoke any real feeling: when surgical precision takes center stage a certain amount of kinetic energy almost invariably obscures the emotion. Shelter Red is an exception to this rule. And this track proves it.
Certainly, the performances can be jaw-dropping, as it is on “A Visual Nerve”, but it’s always in the context of the musical piece. It never feels that it’s simply about the technicality of the performance. This is intense stuff. Not only because it can be heavy and technical, but because it’s moving music.
Floating alongside heavy guitar riffs and syncopated drumming, there are subtle hidden melodies guiding you through the music, as you feel compelled to listen to it. “Far off and Fearful” grabs you and takes you on a wild ride through a thunderous soundscape.
There is a real sense of urgency when this track comes up, and between each snare hit, there is a set of well-placed and complex riffs making it standout. This is busy track in every sense of the term from start to finish. On “The Tempter” the studio work of Stephan Hawkes (engineering, mixing), Jason Livermore (mixing) and Randy Merrill (mastering) allots for a room jam-packed with sounds that are somehow opulently clear while the band pour in layers and layers of details.
By the time you get to the final track, your psyche may be fully overloaded by the relentless stream of rhythms and riffs, but the thunderous “Eternal Paradise of Rest” is once again sonic and aural proof that instrumental tracks can be interesting, engaging and innovative. Something tells me that Shelter Red is going to motivate a few aspiring rock musicians to spend a lot more time in the practice room.