Posted on by Oran

Lock Horns have released something that people in the underground metal scene should fear… I’m talking fire-and-brimstone fear.

This monster that has been let off the leash is their album ‘Red Room’; a culmination of years of hard work, painstaking dedication, and will start claiming souls later this month.

After hitting ‘play’ on the opening track, “The Origin of Evil Impulses”, you cannot help but admire the originality of the riffs from guitarist Junior Afrifa. The dominance of this simplistic heavy riff, backed-up with cannon-like drums from Corey Hodges, and pounding bass from Rhys Fraser is simply breathtaking.

Fraser channels some Les Claypool vibes mid-breakdown, but not before vocalist Alex da Costa lets rip on the mic. He’s a different beast completely; like a fine wine, there are some traces of essential ingredients in his singing style. A pinch of Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe, a dollop of Chimaira’s Mark Hunter, with a stern whiff of Whitechapel’s Phil Bozeman turn out a magnificently raw and tumultuous singing style that is well-balanced and quite voracious.

Rust” and “Skin and Bones” are instruments of blunt force trauma, FORCING the listener to clench a fist and look for something to punch.  Afrifa and Hodges team up again to deliver bodyblows of riffage and punishing drum sets throughout (although to be fair, they do this repeatedly throughout the entire album), and da Costa surfs on this wave of brutality. Hodges’ off-time drums coupled with Afrifa’s deep down-tuned guitar is a sensory feast that makes you search for the rhythm, but then you realise the rhythm has been there all along.

The talent needed to pull this off is nothing short of instinctive, and to be partnered up with three other similarly talented musicians is a master stroke by the metal gods themselves.

The anger infused into the writing of “Lab Rat” is palpable. Da Costa bellows with a cumulative ferocity that really staggers the listener – you find yourself with mouth agape and wondering how gravity is defied in this manner.

It. Is. So. Fucking. Heavy!

Hodges’ sharp snare work maintains the support needed to steady this track, but the blast beats hit pause from time-to-time allowing Fraser to party. Afrifa stands in the centre again, orchestrating the maelstrom into what (personally speaking), the best track on the album.

Impression of a Dream” and “Golden Mean” (the latter only being recently released as a single), continue the off-time pounding. There is an impressive use of double-bass drums to consistently give the song a depth that allows the timing to fall together naturally – this again shows the immense talent of Lock Horns as a band and as individuals since putting pen to paper in 2015.

It’s easy to see why they won Northern Ireland’s M2TM in 2019. Their craft has been honed to a sharpened point, propelling them into the forefront of underground metal in Northern Ireland.

Finally, the last song, “Expressions of Madness” gives you a black eye and a middle finger in your face from the very start. Slower and sludgier than the previous tracks, it is no less heavy. Still flabbergastingly accurate, Afrifa, Fraser and Hodges rally together for one final showdown with the floor; and I can tell you now, the floor loses – there’s just a smouldering crater and Lock Horns are standing in the middle of it.

This album is simply amazing, and is another contender for album of the year. This list is getting full pretty quick, but Lock Horns are in no fear of being booted off. It would take something MAMMOTH to overtake these guys, but since it is still only May, anything is possible (and that’ll be some serious tunage!).

Red Room’ is out on May 31st via Distortion Project Records. Don’t ask questions – just get it. You can thank me later when the injuries heal and you can see straight. 4.5/5

Pre-order your copy here.

Lock Horns – Photo Wayne Donaldson

Shaun Martin 2024