Raw Deal formed just over three years ago when founding members, Giles Rawson and Bret Sinclair met at a local open mic night in Battersea, South London. They immediately hit it off, and soon enough they were hanging out and writing music. It didn’t take long for the two of them to move forward and record their first release, ‘All Our Yesterdays’, mid-July 2011. Moving forwards into 2012, the band won ‘Best Metal Act’ in the Unsigned Awards, and later that month, in mid-July, the band released their follow up EP, ‘The HELL With You!’ Now into 2014, and after adding bassist Harry Mitchell to their roster, the band are ready to release their debut album ‘Counting to None…’
Overall the album has this incredible, heavy feel to it, both crushing and rhythmic at the same time. It’s incredible to think that, for the most part, it was just the two of them writing and recording full tracks for a while, with Bret performing both the lead guitar and the drum work, while also acting as the sound engineer and programmer; a very large task for just one man to complete. On the other side of things, Giles is the vocalist of the group, and also completed work on some of the guitars. Sadly it is the vocals where the album falls apart. Musically the album is fantastic, technical, fast paced at times, and really quite heavy, but the vocals both lyrically and in their delivery feel very dated. You can tell there are influences from some fantastic thrash and classic metal bands, but it doesn’t seem right in the modern environment.
The album kicks off with ‘Moto Psycho Bitch’ and you can tell from the get go that the guitar tones are right on the money and perfect for the dark tone the album is going for. It’s just unfortunate that the vocals just throw the whole song off. Now, not all the vocals are a problem, there are a couple of times where the delivery fits nicely with the rest of the music. When Giles isn’t trying to force his voice and just sings naturally the whole album just feels that little bit more polished. Flipping the coin over, when the vocals are very dark and deep, such as in the track ‘Counting to None…’, which every now and then uses a very Bullet for my Valentine-esque guitar tone, the tracks just become that little bit more heavy and a bit further to a darker and more crushing feeling.
Musically the album performs fantastically, the guitar work in tracks such as ‘Zero Hour’ and ‘Canis Canem Edit’ are tremendous in their technicality and at the same time their simplistic rhythm just keeps each track running at an ideal pace. No track feels like it drags on too long, each one gives themselves enough time to tell you its story and then moves onto the next one. There is also a great amount of variety throughout the release. There is a tendency with metal albums that the band picks one sound and sticks to it for the entirety of the album, which can by the end of it feel like a hike, whereas what we have here is a pleasant walk through dark and gloomy woodland.
As has already been said a couple of times, musically the album is perfectly fine, there is enough variety and length for the album to chug along nicely without a hint of boredom or irritation. It’s just a shame that overall the vocals are just not up to standard. The delivery feels forced and laboured, and you get the sense that Giles should really stick to singing naturally. The lyrical writing also needs more time and attention, when what is being sung never demands any consideration you know you have a problem on your hands. In the end though, it is a solid album musically and for that you can’t fault the effort being made.