Since their debut in 2014, Red Velvet has made a name for themselves with a sonically and conceptually diverse discography. The five-piece Korean girl group, composed of members Irene, Seulgi, Wendy, Joy and Yeri, has delighted fans and casual listeners alike for years with their impeccable harmonies and eccentric conceits that only they can pull off.
After countless EPs and singles, Red Velvet has finally returned with their third Korean studio album — Chill Kill — an agonizing six years after their last. A more mellow addition to their catalog, Chill Kill focuses less on delivering a list of standout songs and instead hones in on telling an evocative story through its 10-track run.
As the music video for the eponymous lead single opens up with a family photo of the girls and a mysterious blacked-out figure, it’s clear that Red Velvet is returning to the music scene with a distinctively creepy, sonically haunting slant. The tragic storytelling that pervades Chill Kill — the kind of musical storytelling Red Velvet is known for — generates intrigue as the girls argue back and forth while cleaning up the blood that desecrates their home. The cinematic music video for “Chill Kill” proves that when it comes to building a narrative through music, Red Velvet is unmatched.
“Chill Kill” opens up with slow, alluring strings that lead into the group’s full and clear vocals, gradually building up to an upbeat chorus that offers a distinct, pop-heavy switch-up. The track, thematically focused on finding love amid tragedy, depicts this through pairing its sanguine sonic production with the lyric refrain “Don’t think about tomorrow/ Forget about your sorrow.” While Red Velvet is known for leaning heavily into experimentation, “Chill Kill” is a song that will have to grow on people.
Considering their strong, critically acclaimed discography, “Chill Kill” debuts with tough competition. The lead single is among the weaker tracks of the album — and their discography as a whole. “Chill Kill” isn’t a bad song by far, but it’s a shakier addition to the pantheon of Red Velvet’s eclectic music.
The rest of the album offers an atmospheric walkthrough of the group’s duality and how skillfully they merge their brighter and darker concepts. Tracks such as “Knock Knock (Who’s There?)” lean heavily into the horror that Red Velvet reintroduces with Chill Kill as the heavy bass and decadent sample of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” leads into a poetic game of cat and mouse. Other tracks such as “Underwater” deliver dreamy vocals, a sultry bassline and sensuous synths as they muse about their love: “I want you, no one else/ Just come lay your body on me.”
The group also explores their softer, sentimental side in tracks such as “Iced Coffee” and “Wings.” In “Iced Coffee,” the girls talk about falling in love with someone with a cold personality who slowly eases into a sweeter side. They sweetly sing, “Fallin’ in your eyes/ Fallin’ in your ice/ Yeah, you got me like iced coffee.”
In “Wings,” the girls return to ideas of hope and wonder as they harmonize, “Spread your wings, butterfly.” A group known for their strong vocal abilities, “Wings” is a delicate exploration of their talents and the hope that can be found amid adversity. Red Velvet has been no stranger to hardship over their nearly decade-long career, so “Wings” is as much of an encouraging anthem for listeners as it is for the group themselves.
With their third record, Red Velvet continues to challenge themselves and improve upon their sound. While their previous albums were distinct representations of one half of their dual concept — The Red serving as their bubbly, pop-centric “red” concept and Perfect Velvet embodying their more mature, R&B “velvet” side — Chill Kill blends the two in a long-awaited album that demonstrates Red Velvet’s versatility and sophistication.
While some of Chill Kill’s tracks aren’t as striking as others, Red Velvet establishes their longevity in this dulcet, inventive comeback. Red Velvet may not release music as frequently as their peers, but when they do it’s always worth tuning in to see how the group has reinvented themselves once again.