The Amsterdam Red Light District – ‘Sapere Aude’

By Matthew Wilson

Sometimes you just take a punt on a band because of the name. The Amsterdam Red Light District have been playing crushing post-hardcore since 2004 and it’s crazy they’ve not been heard of more widely outside of their native France. But on ‘Sapere Aude,’ those 14 years of experience are on display for everyone to see. If you like While She Sleeps, Letlive or Stray From The Path, or politically charged post-hardcore following Refused’s legacy, then you need to listen to this album. You’ll like it. A lot.

For anyone who needs more convincing, this album casts a wide net across the entire spectrum of heavy music, distilling it into a tight, polished, well produced onslaught of melodic post-hardcore. From groovy opener ‘Nobody Moves Like You’, the components of the band’s music are all on display: a heavy emphasis on riffing and melody. Vocalist Elio Sxone’s impressive vocal range and technique is front and centre, an impressive voice that’s able to move effortlessly between Corey Taylor-esque cleans to Liam Cornier style hardcore howls. Speaking of Liam Cornier, he pops up unexpectedly on the second track ‘The Best Is Yet To Come,’ bringing down the bridge with his trademark howls.

First single ‘Need’ is a relentless polemic against the constant intrusion of mass consumption into every facet of our everyday lives, building to a crushing breakdown that demands we “stop idolising ignorance!” This theme of political alienation seeps throughout the entire album, whether on the isolation of ‘Carry On,’ built around huge Cancer Bats grooves, or on the blistering ‘Evil Stakeholders’, raging against those content to take dirty money. In the current political climate, it’s refreshing to see bands actively embrace more political stances in their songwriting.  

Alongside their lyrical consistency, The Amsterdam Red Light District possess a dizzying musicianship that evolves over the course of the album. Whether it’s the heavy riffing on ‘Wild Life’ the major melodic hooks on ‘Waiting For The Day’ playing against the staccato rhythm section, or the groovy ‘The Whole City Burns’, the chops on display here are all exciting and innovative. The same ideas are never rehashed or reused, and each song is able to take on its own character in the context of the album.

The title track that closes the record is a daring departure that directly appeals to you to open your mind. Dread and foreboding is conjured as twinkling glockenspiels mix with computerised text-to-speech programs, melting through sampled news reports and quotes from reactionary politicians whilst synthesizers hum along in the background, before erupting into an onslaught of water drums that pummels you into submission. It’s a stunning closer to an album.

All of ‘Sapere Aude’ is politically motivated, but it’s this final composition that hits home the hardest. It’s surprising how The Amsterdam Red Light District aren’t a bigger name in post-hardcore music, but this could be the album to change all that. Being together for 14 years has given them a cohesion and a confidence in their sound most bands never achieve. It’s groovy, it’s catchy, it’s full of political punk rock fury and it’s creative as hell. ‘Sapere Aude’ means “dare to know,” and on this timely release that deserves your attention, The Amsterdam Red Light District inspire you to do just that.

MATTHEW WILSON

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