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Ah, here's the Bone Awl we all know and love - 85%

iamntbatman, November 22nd, 2009

After a string of releases ranging from merely good to disappointing, Bone Awl have finally gone and released something of a quality not seen from the band since 2005. Aside from the track "Curse, Forget Me" these are all re-recordings of previous material spanning the band's sizable discography but heavily featuring songs from the band's 2007 full-length, Meaningless Leaning Mess. The new song isn't quite the best thing Bone Awl have ever done and some of the versions of older songs aren't quite as good as previous iterations, but the demo largely shines in its improved versions of the Meaningless Leaning Mess material, giving those songs the punchy production they need to really shine.

Production-wise, this demo shares a lot in common with the second Furdidurke split and previous release Almost Dead Man. The guitar has a nice meaty bite to it, something that was largely absent from older Bone Awl releases. The bass, once again, is clearly audible as a separate instrument and has the same sort of smooth, clean sound it did on "Green As He Walks." I still miss that old, strummed and overdriven bass sound, but it's hard to deny just how good the guitar tone sounds on this demo so it may be a case of looking a gift horse in the mouth. This is especially true of "Undying Glare" and the songs originally on Meaningless, as those releases were both plagued by thin, trebly guitar tone that doesn't fit the music nearly as well as this more potent tone does. For those unfamiliar with the source material these songs are from (or unfamiliar with Bone Awl in general, really): these riffs are extremely basic three or four chord punk progressions played with a heavy-handed, stomping downpicking style that's all about attitude over technicality. As is par for the course with Bone Awl, there are no leads or solos to be found and the band avoids playing the more overtly black metal songs that have popped up here and there in the band's recent output (notable examples are the two longer tracks from the Undying Glare EP, which are both absent in favor of the punkier title track).

Fortunately, the drums get a much louder place in the mix than on previous demo Almost Dead Man, a welcome relief since the pounding, simple, punk-centric drumming is a major element of Bone Awl's sound and their prominence was missed on that release. They're back in full force here, basic one-two punk beats and all.

The vocals on All Has Red are quite similar to Almost Dead Man; He Who Gnashes Teeth uses that same super distorted effect on this release with similar (good) results. Once again, the vocals are buried a bit too deep in the mix for my liking, which is really an affront to HWGT's vocal prowess (the guy has got to be one of the most recklessly aggressive black metal vocalists I've encountered). They're a bit louder than on Almost Dead Man but still too quiet for my liking.

The sound quality on All Has Red is so superior to Meaningless Leaning Mess that I'm compelled to recommend this demo in favor of that album, despite the exclusion of a lot of the better songs. This also runs about half the time of the full-length (it only has eleven songs and the longest is only two minutes and fifteen seconds). For a band with such simple and straightforward songs that have been played in much the same style for the duration of the band's career, slight differences in production can make or break a release and in the case of All Has Red, we definitely have one of the best sounding releases in the latter half of the band's discography, making it an essential part of the Bone Awl enthusiast's collection.