You simply cannot front on the way these guys combine riff and rhythm. The guitar licks are like non-Euclidian polygons, and listening through a song is like navigating a three-dimensional construction of an MC Escher drawing. This has always been the case, however much the band has mutated from it's sprawling "take you on a journey" approach into succinct "melt your brain with a laser" methodology.
The first two albums took the early-Monster Magnet approach to production, meaning that there are tons of moments with like 2000 guitars tripping the fuck out. They did it well, and particularly Ultramagnetic Glowing Sound (1999) stands out as a masterpiece of obsessive production. Yet this wasn't the true Source of Red Giant's Power, as first revealed by Devil Child Blues (2004).
The songs were a bit shorter, the guitars and vocals less effects-laden, but when you listened to it you clearly had made the jump to hyperspace. You just don't find sonic constructions like this in a mere three dimensions. As a rabid fan of Ultramag, I admit I was a conflicted listener. I somewhat missed the occasional 10 minute epic, the greater variety in tempo, etc. Yet it was clear that Red Giant was getting closer to their essential Red Giant-ness, constructing music out of the elements they found most exciting and immediate.
Any hesitation I had about the stripped-down direction these guys are taking has been completely obliterated by their new disc, Dysfunctional Majesty. This fucker oozes enthusiasm out of every pore. The conviction with which these songs are presented hints at total mastery over the group's unique songwriting prowess. It truly is the wall-to-wall ear candy they have been striving to achieve.
Let's first consider the track "Million Point Buck". It's verse riff is sort of a sequel to the previous album's title track, yet it's a more complete melodic entity. A beautiful pentatonic phrase, the band could simply repeat it for 6 minutes and call it a day with no complaints from me, whereas "Devil Child Blues" required some clever tempo-trickery to sustain its momentum. Yet it doesn't seem to be in Red Giant's character to simply sit back and let a song write itself, and sure enough they intersperse that shit with orgasmic shards of lead guitar, and resolve it into an epic grind of spacey arpeggios.
By the time you got to "Buck", however, you already listened to the first four tracks and were blown away. "Chopper", "Easy, Killer" and "Season of the Bitch" all have an important point in common to make, which is that lead singer/rhythm guitarist Alex Perekrest is laying down the vocal performance of his career. There's a newfound confidence at work here, and we are treated to several instances of the instruments scaling back to put the voice front and center. The bravado with which Perekrest delivers the a capella passage in the blues^2 romp "Easy, Killer" simply chills and smolders. On Monster Magnet's classic Spine of God, Dave Wyndorf bellowed with impunity. Imagine Wyndorf with a richer set of vocal chords and you get the idea of where Perekrest is coming from.
"Never Touch the Lens" makes a slightly different point, which is that the schizo speed-metal of last album's "John L Sullivan" was no fluke. It's the disc's most relentless, blistering track, full of riffs at war with one another, jockeying for position to be the one that tore your face off. Most of them succeed. It also hints towards how badass is the rest of the album, since this is only the second track and somehow doesn't steal the thunder from everything that follows. "Silver Shirley" is an unexpected seven-minute dirge that demonstrates Red Giant's ability to stretch things out and still maintain movement at each moment, culminating in a berserk horn solo over a "How to Handle a Rope"*-esque riff.
That's probably as far as you got the first listen through, because there is simply too much content to process in one go. Given time to assimilate, you return to brave the final six tracks and do not find them lacking. "Herds of Something Else" boasts the band's catchiest melodic guitar phrase since Ultramag's "Floor Girl", and schools you further on how to permutate and fractalize rhythms to brilliant effect. "Lamentations" takes a step back for a spell with a comparatively straightforward guitar arrangement, giving our brains the chance to breathe before the album's climax, which we'll get to in a moment. "It Doesn't Seem Right" juggles Atomic Bitchwax-esque blues noodling with power chords that swing hard enough to give you whiplash. "These Satisfactions Are Permanent" Pentagrams it up with a menacing, stuttering riff, giving way to the requisite celestial guitar wizardry.
Which brings us to "Weird Problems", the centerpiece of the whole affair. Delicately entwined lead guitars blast off to such heights that listening to this song is likely to give you vertigo. It's mostly the same lick throughout, but every repetition is coupled with elaboration, and the intensity soon overwhelms. Upon reaching critical mass, the track literally supernovas, resolving into a levitating monk/dancing Shiva passage. Despite zig-zagging like an X-Wing dogfight, this is the eye hurricane, the moment of clarity, possessed by a stillness, a majesty, a wisdom, and other adjectives that you wouldn't think applied to music (but clearly do in this case). This is the track you beg them to play at a show.
Red Giant closes things out with a legit cover of "Let There Be Rock" done completely straight. Apparently there's some controversy about this song being out of place. I suppose if an AC/DC cover is the biggest beef to be had then we're in good shape.
*See the album Queens of the Stone Age by Queens of the Stone Age