Pat might be irritated for me to say that Red Dragon reminds me a little of Opeth here and there, but he can suck it up and deal with it. I've been listening to Red Dragon now for a couple months trying to put my finger on just what I hear and I end up hearing it differently each time. Don't worry, the album doesn't veer off into masturbatory sleepy-time passages like Opeth is prone to doing, but one cannot deny the occasional meandering transitions that connect the heavier riffs to each other. But look at this, I've gotten way ahead of myself.
Helcaraxë is a band that exist in their own world. It's liberating to not have to care about what everyone else thinks because you're not chasing some heavy metal glory. What you get is an honest reflection of a creative process wherein Helcaraxë writes only to tickle their own fancy. It's that sense that says, hell with it, let's write an entire album about The Hobbit but do it in a way nobody has ever done before. See, if you didn't know the novel (or now, the movie) you might not have picked up on the concept behind Red Dragon, and that's okay, because the album is still good enough that it doesn't need a theme to carry it. A concept like The Hobbit just adds an extra layer for those of us who still like to put our faces in books now and then.
Musically, though, Red Dragon is a much darker and heavier take on the tale of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures. Tolkien-influenced albums are often the domain of power metal bands with their epic progressions and keyboard zazz and wailing falsetto vocalists with their billowy shirts and perfectly-modeled flowing hair, not this brutal, primordial form of melodic death metal shot through with progressive and East Coast hardcore elements, slabs of sludgy doom riffs and heavy, bellowing vocals, and trudge-inducing rhythms. There are more mood and tempo shifts than I can count, and many recurring riffs and themes that bind the album together. Red Dragon is best listened to all the way through to fully experience the musical journey there and back again. See what I did there?
Red Dragon is not easy to digest and the hooks will not be spoon-fed to you. It's musical haggis, one in which appreciation comes the more you listen to it, the more you get lost in it. The more you get lost in it, the more you will find yourself going back to it. You know, kind of like a Tolkien novel. Stream the whole album at the link given.