First Listen: Vendetta Red’s ‘Scripture’

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Vendetta Red, clockwise: Zach Davidson, Burke Thomas, Jonah Bergman and Leif Anderson

Vendetta Red is a name that may give off a sense of nostalgia for local music fans considering the group has been dormant for quite a while, but after a seven-year recording hiatus the group returns this month with the album Scripture. (UPDATE: The group has pushed back the release of the record to an unspecified date) The band was a fixture of the local scene in the early and mid 2000s and anyone who may be concerned the band’s time away from making music might change its visceral, hard rock sound should not be worried. Scripture is the most focused, and possibly best, album of Vendetta Red’s career. But before getting into further impressions of the new record, here’s a brief history lesson.

Vendetta Red was once one of the most coveted bands in Seattle. Back in the early 2000s major labels were courting the group, which quickly got lumped into the screamo punk subgenre thanks to the ridiculously strong pipes of vocalist Zach Davidson and guitar wizardry of Leif Anderson. The band signed with Epic Records in 2003 and shortly after the release of Between the Never and the Now the group was labeled the next big thing to come out of Seattle. The record was mostly a rehash of material the band previously released on other albums (see: Cut Your Noose, Blackout Analysis, White Knuckled Substance and 6 Kisses, A Blatant Reminder of Why We Are Alive) and thanks to the single “Shatterday” it was moderately successful.

Two years later the group returned with Sisters of the Red Death, a concept record about a post-apocalyptic world where a woman who is part Medusa and part harpy lashes out at mankind for her existence and ends up falling in love. The album was an ambitious undertaking lyrically and it received decent critical reviews, but it didn’t live up to expectations and in 2006 Vendetta Red disbanded. After the split Davidson and guitarist Anderson formed the band Sirens Sister, which had more of a shiny pop-rock shimmer to its sound as opposed to Vendetta Red’s harder edge and raw emotion and energy.

Last year Vendetta Red reunited and that reunion led to the recording of Scripture with producer Terry Date who is best known for his work with Deftones, Soundgarden, Pantera and several other titans of the hard and heavy. The reunited Vendetta Red — Davidson, Anderson, bassist Jonah Bergman (formerly of Schoolyard Heroes, another great disbanded group from Seattle’s recent past) and drummer Burke Thomas — hasn’t given a specific release date for Scripture but the band’s management has stated it will be released some time this month. Here’s what you can expect when the album is made available to the public:

  • Longtime fans will immediately notice a bit of a shift in the group’s approach with the opening song “See Without Eyes.” The track begins with Davidson singing over what sounds like the strumming of a steel guitar before blasting into a full-blown assault of drums, electric guitar and bass. The steel guitar continues throughout the song and it is a slight departure from past VR offerings but things get back to normal 90 seconds later when Davidson unleashes his powerful pipes with a howling scream.
  • Speaking of Davidson’s distinct voice, it is in fine form throughout the album. He seemingly can go from beautiful and serene to vengeful and murderously blood-curdling in seconds.  Also in in fine form are his poetic lyrics, which often feature brutal and dark imagery.
  • A good example of  Davidson’s screams and dark lyrics working perfectly together is “Sparks,”  the album’s fifth song, and perhaps its most impressive. In the second verse he sings: “A worm feast spirals orbiting/And black holes gape like hungry mouths/Eager to devour all life all existence/So lets pray they choke on our twitching corpses.” The song later drops into a quieter bridge featuring near angelic harmonies which last until Anderson lets out a searing guitar solo that provides the backdrop for one of Davidson’s many powerful screams. That particular moment is a turning point for the album as it shows the band is capable of delivering multi-tiered melodies and blissful harmonies while almost simultaneously turning a song sideways with shredding guitars, vocals that pack a punch and pure rock ‘n’ roll power.
  • The three-song sequence of “Fuck Me On Star Tours,” “Dadda Chim Didda Chum (Hanging Around)” and “The Aurora Dive Team” is especially noteworthy. The crunchy guitars and Davidson’s falsetto on “Star Tours” are reminiscent of early Vendetta Red Material.  The fantastic percussive intro to “Dadda Chim Didda Chum (Hanging Around)” is unlike anything Vendetta Red has recorded. It’s by far the most fun song in the band’s catalog (yes, I used “fun” as an adjective for Vendetta Red) and comes across as slightly playful but don’t let its sound deceive you. Sample lyrics: “Wizard quoting from scripture/I’ll make you eat your words. You pass your judgement I picture/You bound to the pyre with your face on fire.” And “The Aurora Dive Team” sees Bergman and Davidson fiercely barking out alternating lyrics on the record’s heaviest song.
  • There are plenty of great singalongs (or in some cases screamalong) to be found throughout Scripture but the song that will likely get fans singing the loudest is “Close to Me.” Its closing refrain of Davidson repeating “stained red” is likely to have plenty of fists pumping every time it makes a setlist. The song also seems the most likely to get radioplay out of the record’s 11 tracks. “Coming to Take Me Away,” the following track, is also a good candidate for airplay and it is the song off Scripture that sounds the most like a Sirens Sister outtake. Both are closer to the melodic “Shiver,” off Sisters of the Red Death, than they are “Shatterday.”

Trackilst:

1. See Without Eyes
2. Blank Screens, Etc.
3. Close To Me
4. Coming to Take Me Away
5. Sparks
6. Always
7. Fuck Me On Star Tours
8. Dadda Chim Didda Chum (Hanging around)
9. The Aurora Dive Team
10. The Oracle
11. The Temple of the Winged Serpent

Vendetta Red’s next scheduled local appearance is a part of a free concert at the Mural Amphitheatre on July 7. The band will also be at Warped Tour’s Marymoor Park stop on Aug. 4.

*Editor’s note: The original version of this post incorrectly identified guitarist Leif Anderson as an original member of the band. This post has been modified to correct that mistake.

Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 13 years documenting and enjoying Seattle's diverse music scene. In 2009 he established Guerrilla Candy and is currently the site's editor and publisher. He has written for various media outlets including MSN Music, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly, Crosscut.com and others and was the founder and former editor of the defunct music site Ear Candy.