Red Animal War - Black Phantom Crusades (Cover Artwork)

Red Animal War

Red Animal War: Black Phantom CrusadesBlack Phantom Crusades (2002)
Deep Elm Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: relay1112relay1112
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Red Animal War took me completely by surprise. A friend recommended them as a great math-rock band, so I visited their website. What did I hear? A little song called Backbreaker, a contribution to one of the Emo Diaries. It did little for me. Fast forward a month, and I find it in my music fold.
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Red Animal War took me completely by surprise. A friend recommended them as a great math-rock band, so I visited their website. What did I hear? A little song called Backbreaker, a contribution to one of the Emo Diaries. It did little for me. Fast forward a month, and I find it in my music folder. That day in my English class we were reading a segment of The Red Badge of Courage, and I had noticed from where the band got their name. I decided to give "Backbreaker" a listen. This time, perhaps because I was far older and infinitely more mature than one month before, I was taken aback. How had I ignored this song? How did this nugget of math-rock gold slipped my musical sieve? At this point I didn't care, as I rushed headlong to my CD store to buy something, anything by this band. To my dismay I found nothing, as the case usually is. One quick visit to CDNow.com, and I was eagerly awaiting Black Phantom Crusade's delivery.

When the CD came in the mail, I popped it in immediately, and once again, was not impressed. The first track sounded flat, uninspired, boring. Fast forward a few days, and I was hooked.

The opening track, "Still", turned out to be a mellow masterpiece. Track two, "When Fat Pigs Fly", still does little for me. The third track, "Straight Lines for Construction Workers", is a welcomed diversion from the rest of the CD; a soft number laden with saxophones lamenting a construction worker's death. "Making Zealots" is an infuriating song; what could be great music is completely negated by RAW attempting to be unique. The main chord progression seems normal at first, but later it just bothers the hell out of me that the band took it a few notes too far. The flow is completely disrupted. RAW is plagued throughout their CD by this drive to be unique. They seem terrified by the prospect of being branded as "nothing special." "When I Get the Feeling Back in My Hands" makes up for any mistakes committed in "Making Zealots." A bouncing hook paves the way for a dramatic shout-along chorus. "Blame the Christians, blame the Muslims, blame the Jews!" Indeed.

Track six is where this CD really starts to shine. "The Day after Yesterday" is sung by backup vocalist and guitarist Matt Pittman. It's a chill offering worthy of note. Track seven, "Mouse", is one of the best songs I have ever, note that, EVER heard. The opening chords are spiked with a whooshing guitar noise that, the first time I heard the song, made me restart it a few times just to hear the beginning again. Jeff Wilganoski established his talent in the first six tracks, but in "Mouse", he really shows why he is one of the great drummers of today. Relentless percussion relying heavily on toms creates a style recognizable from miles away. The song is complimented by some of Wilson's best vocals, and is adorned with a spoken-word segment. Altogether, "Mouse" is an incredibly convincing song.

"And So It Begins with Bombs" starts soft and explodes later on, culminating in a shout-along chorus that begs you to join them. "Gattaca" is RAW's attempt at a standard punk song, and they prove that they can toss aside their math-rock tendencies to create a pop-punk gem. Track ten, "Photel California", is a nice two minute instrumental, but the two final tracks top off the record in incredible style.

"Jambalaya" joins "Mouse" as one of the best songs I've heard in the last few years. An explosive beginning followed by a verse of almost rapped lyrics sets your body in motion. Plucked harmonics start the instrumental verse, a spoken-word segment laying softly over the music. "I was a knife, I was a knife, tonight!" The song explodes once again. A short breakdown later, and bam, yet another explosion. Following immediately is a cheery little ditty called "Right Now, Today, I Don't Believe in Hell." "With nicotine nails, and coke-red eyes, she said to me, believe you me, I don't wanna die." The depressing mood continues throughout most of the rest of the song, until it takes an upward turn: "You think this dance is over, think again, this is war, these are mines, and yes those are your friends." The song breaks into a bass-driven beat which slows into oblivion, and the album ends. Wow.

Red Animal War creates math-driven rock with insightful lyrics and faultless production. Though parallels to Jawbox will inevitably be made, RAW creates a sound unique enough to call their own. The album relies heavily on relentless guitars and drums, skilled bass, and of course, Justin Wilson's undeniably great lyrics and vocals. Fans of Jawbox, Hot Water Music, or Fugazi should definitely check out Red Animal War.

Vocals ?? 8.4
Instrumentation ?? 8.4
Production ?? 9.0
Cover Art ?? 7.5

Overall Score (not an average): 8.9


People who liked this also liked:
The Lawrence Arms - The Greatest Story Ever ToldModest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded WestCursive - The Ugly OrganBear Vs Shark - Right Now You're In The Best Of Hands. And If Something Isn't Quite Right...Strung Out - Suburban Teenage Wasteland BluesAppleseed Cast - Mare VitalisRefused - The Shape of Punk to ComeThe Get Up Kids - Something To Write Home AboutDescendents - Milo Goes To CollegeAlkaline Trio - Goddamnit

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
funkisdead (September 12, 2003)

you know, i love red animal war. breaking in an angel was an awesome record.
but i am not down with this.
it is not good.
breaking in an angel was infinitely better.

relay1112 (June 25, 2003)

"red badge of courage? did they really extract something from a low grade high school fiction work? i hope not..."

Yes, actually they took it from a line where the author referred to a "red-animal war."

And I hate the book too.

relay1112 (February 21, 2003)

Ahh a reasonable man. Thanks for the help Kurt, and sorry for coming back at you like that. You just gotta assume everything's an insult these days.

Kurt_F (February 21, 2003)

Hey, don't worry, I wasn't trying to insult you, I was just filling you in. I know it's a rarity on this site, since everyone is ALWAYS looking to insult EVERYTHING. Ridiculous.

Anonymous (February 21, 2003)

what the hell is math rock?

relay1112 (February 20, 2003)

Yeah I admit it's a pretty big ripoff of Pitchfork's rating scale. But whatever, 4 and a half stars is meaningless when everyone on this damn site gives everything ever a 5 star rating. Simple numbers mean nothing when I don't explain them. It's the best way to do it.

Also, fuckin sue me over the difference between "math-rock" and "technical rock."

Kurt_F (February 20, 2003)

By the way, this isn't math rock. It's just highly technical. Rescue and Stillwell are math rock. Boo yea.

And Scott, I've noticed we are a lot alike. It's kinda scary. (I'm skinny though) Plus, you are highly down with all that is Polyvinyl, especially Rainer Maria. Right on.

mintymoose (February 20, 2003)

well..baa! i haven't got the album..but i sooo want it..i searched EVERYWHERE for it, but apparently you can't find it at common music stores..suckahs..
Red Animal War..one of the best bands on Deep Elm..well..after This Beautiful Mess..anyhoo..yes, Backbreaker is indeed a brilliant song..although hehe "math-rock" is a funny term..

Anonymous (February 20, 2003)

You graded the album like it's a fucking gymnastic meet. RAW is amazing, 10.0 easy.

travis (February 19, 2003)

how very pitchfork of you relay. i agree that is a better way to rank things though.

relay1112 (February 19, 2003)

Reviewing rating system I used (a little different, and less lenient than most):

10.0 - Flawless
9.5-9.9 ?? Nearly perfect
9.0-9.4 ?? Essential
8.5-8.9 ?? Spectacular
8.0-8.4 ?? Recommended
7.5-7.9 ?? Solid
7.0-7.4 ?? Impressive, but not without its flaws
6.5-6.9 ?? A consistent album with more than a few flaws
6.0-6.4 ?? Enjoyable
5.5-5.9 ?? Better than average, not many standout qualities
5.0-5.4 ?? Nothing special, but nice enough
4.0-4.9 ?? Listenable; only a few enjoyable moments
3.0-3.9 ?? Not worth the price
2.0-2.9 ?? Terrifying
1.0-1.9 ?? Pitiful
0.1-0.9 ?? Redefines awful
0.0 ?? Avoid it like the plague

So the cover art is "Solid". Point me out anything on the cover or in the booklet that deserves anything more than a "Solid" rating, and I'll gladly change it. It's good, but nothing spectacular.

Anonymous (February 19, 2003)

i... want... this CD.

pope_schlomo (February 18, 2003)

This shit is so good. "Jambalya", "When Fat Pigs Fly"(great mix with the xylophones), "Straight Lines For Construction Workers"(great sax solo) and "Gattica" are my fav songs in the album. RAW is my fav Deep Elm band since Planes Mistaken For Stars. Get this wonderful piece of music.


evildeadalive (February 18, 2003)

Hmmm.... sounds interesting.

travis (February 18, 2003)

ive been listening to this album a lot lately. so, so good.

Anonymous (February 18, 2003)

The cover art is really cool. But I haven't heard this album yet.

maverick (February 18, 2003)

Yeah, Jambalaya is my favorite song off this disc, too.


Kurt_F (February 18, 2003)

I agree, this cd is great, but inconsistent. Jambalaya is an AWESOME song though.

maverick (February 18, 2003)

The font used on this album blows.

The rest of the disc is pretty good, though.


Anonymous (February 18, 2003)

Really good music on this disc. I love it.

Anonymous (February 18, 2003)

what a silly review. i'd say the cover art is way better than 7.5. seem like totally arbitrary ratings.

red badge of courage? did they really extract something from a low grade high school fiction work? i hope not...

Anonymous (February 18, 2003)

Great band!

timis (February 18, 2003)

This is a great album, however i like "breaking in an angel" more.

adam (February 18, 2003)

I love this album, it's one of the best of 2002. I particularly like "Straight Lines For Construction Workers."

Expect this band to be HUGE (at least "huge" on the indie scene) in a few years.


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