Review by James Ballinger
When first announced, Merso might have seemed like an odd signing for Seattle record label Good to Die. The label has been known for that “drenched-in-sweat-and-spilt-Rainer” noisy-aggro sound since its beginning. But the label is hardly a metal label, far from it. For every Sandrider record released, there is a Monogamy Party or a Blood Drugs record. By that logic, Merso (formally known as Leatherdaddy) make a fitting addition to a stellar roster.
Red World opens with “Astoria”, and with vocalist/guitarist Tristan Sennholz crooning in a soulful falsetto, almost like something you’d hear on a Bon Iver record. But the song soon twists and spirals downwards, into a prog influenced post-rock black hole. By the end of the first track, you’ve already heard an albums worth of ideas crammed in to one eight minute epic. The next track “Reunion Show” plays it a little more safe, sliding in and out of psychedelic verses with an almost Steely Dan inspired refrain. “Ten Years In A Juvenile Fantasy” opens with a mathy guitar line, while drummer Taylor Carroll plays along with jazz-fusion precision, followed by “Librium” the albums most straight-forward track, which isn’t really saying much. By the time you get to the albums three-part closer “Red World”, you’re exhausted in the best way. Each song is almost its own symphony, with parts intertwining and locking with air-tight precision, while seamlessly flowing into the next piece with ease.
Red World is indeed a work of art, but in layers. In some cases that can be detrimental to the end result. However, it isn’t the case here. It’s a truly remarkable record. After repeat listens, Red World unlocks almost like the next level in a video game, you just have to trigger the right thing to move forward. But once you do, you’re rewarded with progress. Ultimately, that’s what makes this record so satisfying. The rewards don’t come all at once, even though it’s enjoyable enough from the very first spin.