Album Review: RedHook- Debut Album “Postcard From A Living Hell’

4.5/5

The band embraces vulnerability and explores injustice, mental health, and the effects of suffering trauma.

Living through trauma and recovering from it is an experience that is filled with setbacks, anger, rage, and longing for normalcy, something that Emmy, the lead singer of Australian alternative rock foursome RedHook, knows a lot about. The frontwoman channels this hardship into creating a captivating debut record that combines vulnerability, high-energy instrumentals, and punk elements. The band gets personal about the battle against one’s own mind and the trauma that sets one on a path to self-destruction on their debut album Postcard From A Living Hell. In addition to trauma, the record hits back against injustice and wrestles with heartbreak, politics, and personal demons. Walking listeners through the mental lacerations that frontwoman Emmy endured after experiencing sexual assault while on tour to the tune of high-energy guitar riffs and emotive vocals, the record is comforting to those who know that difficulty while being universal in its appeal to people who have experienced different kinds of trauma.

Known for their powerful songwriting and captivating honesty, the fiercely independent group hones in on these skills on this record through songs such as “Off With Your Head” and “Psyche vs. Psyche.”  The former song zeroes in on the searing feelings of anger and rage that accompany trauma with its in-your-face drums, and screaming lyrics magnifying the trap that trauma can lay for its sufferers, giving the track a cathartic punk feel while the latter track sees Emmy experimenting with her vocals and taking on a sound that echoes Electric Callboy, both tracks showing the band’s evolution.  Writing a vulnerable feature on experiencing sexual assault while on tour for Rolling Stone in 2021, the album sees Emmy returning to the road, shaking up the genre, and using her voice to fight for the protection of women everywhere. Those who are not familiar with the band may think that this is something that is atypical or used for songwriting purposes. But the band has always marched to the beat of their own drum musically and lyrically.

The shapeshifting Sydney-based independent band quickly accrued a global fanbase after breaking out onto the rock scene with their ability to pen honest lyrics and weave other genres into their songs, following the country’s history of producing rock bands that are truly unique in how they break boundaries in genre and sound. Distinctive in their musical style, the group’s origin story is also out of the ordinary: duo Emmy Mack and Craig Wilkinson met as strangers after they both moved to Sydney in 2017 with guitarist  Ned Jan and drummer Alex Powys rounding out the band. The strength of the band’s 2018  debut single  “Minute on Fire” attracted the attention of a promotor of the Download Festival where they performed. Subsequently, they were signed to management and inked multiple booking deals, touring across the UK and Europe to support Three Days Grace and performing across festivals in Australia. The band released their debut EP Bad Decisions in 2021 to critical acclaim, a project that garnered the band 13 million streams on Spotify. Postcard From A Living Hell  sees the band solidify their spot in the Australian rock scene with the gut-wrenching single “Jabberwocky.”

The opener “Postcard XO” starts the album off with a bang with its high-energy guitar riffs as it explores feelings of guilt, shame, and finding solace in being at rock bottom as it’s a familiar space. The singer is heard wishing the worst for herself as that is what she feels like she deserves, a place that so many people who have suffered from depression have been. Darkly melodic, the tune sounds like a letter one would receive from a friend that is suffering but is desperately trying to cover it up.

“Low Budget Horror’  is filled with attitude and unabashedly discusses the hell of living with mental health conditions while effortlessly infusing elements of pop-punk and trap.  The lead single “Jabberwocky” contains elements of EDM. The track  “Imposter’, which features fellow Australian rockers Yours Truly brilliantly blends the styles of both groups while discussing how a loved one can change drastically, making one question the relationship and their own reality over an  EDM instrumental. Through vivid lyrics that paint the loved one as a ‘ghost” of themselves, listeners can picture the aggrieved party losing their mind as they witness these changes in persona.

Closer ” SAY” is powerful in its instrumentality and lyrical content, serving as a bold statement against misogyny and hones in on the importance of fighting for gender equality. A political tune, the band backs up the significance of its message with a fiery approach, the lyric ‘Just be one thing/ A little puppet on a string” highlighting what is expected of women and making the reality of oppression hit home.

Postcard From A Living Hell is a record that shows the band’s versatility, as it experiments with EDM, candy, pop, trap, pop-punk, and vocal acrobatics. Despite the subject matter, the album sounds like a fun project for the band, with each member fully contributing to its creation, something that can be heard in every track. A searing, honest record, Postcard From A Living Hell is one that can be blasted in a car during a late-night drive or listened to during a pop-punk karaoke night.   Thought-provoking and emotional, this album has something for everyone.

Press photo of RedHook (Photo Credit: Brandon Lung)
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