For over 10 years, Red has been a staple in the music scene rising quickly to fame from their incredible debut album. Over these years they’ve released relatively consistent solid albums. The only exception is the 2013 “Release the Panic;” a subpar and disappointing effort. On the adverse, 2015’s “Of Beauty & Rage” was the band’s greatest achievement. It was a journey through hell and escaping to heaven much like The Divine Comedy – a theme from their music since “Innocence & Instinct” in 2008. Coming off from their strongest album, how does this newest LP hold up?
Step Inside, the Violence begins the album with a thick and mean riff but with the entrance of the verse, the guitars disappear. Only vocals, ambient percussion, and synth can be heard. It’s not a new formula for Red. The style can be done effectively, however, it can also be overdone. For all this, the song serves the purpose that a first song on a hard rock album is supposed to accomplish. It gets the head moving and it’s simple.
The next three tracks are all singles released before the album. Still Alive is prime Red. It sounds like “Innocence & Instinct” but evolved. It’s heavy, fast paced, and carried with a synth that compliments in all the right places. Best of all, the song ends with a vicious riff and Michael Barnes signature scream. Losing Control is served similarly. The two singles are classic Red, showcasing the sound we’ve come to love for so long now.
The title track is where things get dicey. The near ever-present synth begins with a build-up on the drums and disappear again with the verse. The chorus is catchy, but more importantly, the lyrics hit home. Red has a way of either writing songs in one of two ways. A song can either be vague to the point of being a cliché lyrical track, or one that is like a razor sharp knife cutting into all your heartstrings. Barnes’ asks in the chorus, “When I’m gone, When I fade away, Is the air I breathe my only legacy? When I’m gone.” Lyrically the song is a memorable one, but musically is endlessly confusing. The song turns into a pop song on the Top 40 along the likes Taylor Swift or maybe Owl City. This synth that nearly goes into light dubstep absolutely ruins the feel of the song. It’s forced, and makes no sense.
Coming Apart is a nice change of pace with the album’s first ballad. Even though it does again, carry the synth, it’s used in a secondary fashion. The center of the song isn’t the synth, it’s the vocals, the drums, and piano.
However, this is where the album goes downhill once again. The next track, Unstoppable is best used by hitting the skip button. Sometimes it’s best to leave pop songs alone. The Sia cover seems forcibly placed in the album but has no business being there. The lyrics like I said before are one of two things. “I’m unstoppable, I’m running with no brakes, I’m invincible, Yeah, I win every single game, I’m so powerful, I don’t need batteries to play, I’m so confident, I’m unstoppable today.” When you pair these adolescent lyrics with the pop-esque way they’re delivered, the song is still a mediocre pop song, not even Red can save it.
“Gone” returns to its previous glory with Fracture and Chasing Your Echo. Singularity closes the album on an intriguing note. The five minute track builds slowly around Barnes’ soaring vocals that touch on a haunting nature. A spoken word part comes in almost like a radio broadcast speaking equally haunting words. “It is dark, because it is darkness. It is over, because it is the end.” The song explodes into chaos with screams and heaviness and disappears quickly into a ranging synth and closes with just the radio broadcast-like voice.
Such an amazing end to a strange and confusing album. Red is a tremendous band and each musician is talented and devoted to what they do. But this album has too many weak points. When stood up against their previous album, the magnificent and dark “Of Beauty & Rage,” there’s too much missing.