Vex Red is brit-emo/hard rock with synthesizers and samples; and it could be a lot, lot worse.

At it’s best, the Hampshire five-piece juxtapose wistful, jaded lyrics and swooshing effects with big-ass “crunch-crunch” noises out of a Korn concert. At it’s worst, the Ross Robinson-produced album sounds like all the other heart-on-sleeve, finger-on-trigger, hard-rock bands still mad at their ex-girlfriends.

Take “Bully Me,” song six off the full-length first-time album. Soft, rhythmic guitar accompanies Terry Abbott’s slurry, hurt voice. “I don’t want sympathy / I’ll do it my way” Terry whispers, as the soft drums tap away and the chords swell slightly into the chorus, “you bully me / you won’t beat me / I will be me again.” You can tell this is building up, and by 3 minutes 20 seconds – after the super-quiet, whiny part – BOOM! Chorus, synth effects, guitar, all at once. “I WIL BE ME AGAIN!” A monster ballad for 2002.

Sometimes Strong and Persistent sounds like Nine Inch Nails’ b-sides, which doesn’t mean it stinks, it’s just that it’s Nine Inch Nails’ b-sides. At other times the jaded reviewer in me skipped by 20 seconds to find the parts that didn’t sound like Slipknot swallowed a video game.

The seven-minute last track called “Vert” demonstrates Terry’s vocal poise against a backdrop of digital and acoustic guitar chicanery. When the big guitars and drum hit at – who’da guessed – 3 minutes and 40 seconds, I smile and excuse Vex Red. Emo has had it a lot worse.

[David Downs smokes crack and worships Satan.]