Album: Release the Panic (Deluxe Edition)
Label: Provident Music Group/ Sony
Release Date: 02/01/13
Reviewer: Lee Brown
- Release the Panic
- Perfect Life
- Die for You
- Same Disease
- Hold Me Now
- If We Only
- So Far Away
- Glass House
- The Moment We Came Alive
- Love Will Leave a Mark (Deluxe Edition only)
- As You Go (Deluxe Edition only)
- Hymn for the Missing (Guillotine Remix) (Deluxe Edition only)
- Death of Me (Guillotine Remix) (Deluxe Edition only)
- Breathe Into Me (Remix Acustica) (Deluxe Edition only)
Red made a massive impact with their debut release, End of Silence, back in 2006. Though not groundbreaking, Red proved to have a potent blend of sometimes piano-driven hard rock with testosterone-driven vocals. They returned in 2009 with Innocence and Instinct. Innocence… moved to a darker theme inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, yet kept mostly the same core Red sound. In 2011, Red once again returned with their powerful, if not slightly more of the same, album Until We Have Faces. As Innocence… was inspired by Dante, Until We Have Faces took it’s name from a lesser known story by the great C. S. Lewis.
With Release the Panic, Red has worked with producer Howard Benson (P.O.D., My Chemical Romance) to create a “new” sound that is still driven primarily by story telling. Drummer Joe Rickard was quoted as saying that, “One of the things Howard stressed was that if he had heard it before, he didn’t want to hear it on this record.” Considering the appeal that Red has been able to garner from both hard music and traditionally more CCM-based crowds alike, all of this sounds like a perfect combination.
However… With what sounds like great intentions, the final product is something of a mixed bag. Considering Howard’s comment, one would expect the band to explore new musical territory, and they certainly do. It’s harder to understand, however, why much of the new ground they cover sounds so much like where other bands have already gone.
Most notably, several tracks on this album sound like they belong on the B-Sides of Love and Death’s newest album. The title track “Release the Panic” is the first place to start with this, but it is not the most guilty of the bunch. The song “Damage” sounds so much like Love and Death that I had to check all of the press releases twice to make sure Brian “Head” Welch wasn’t making a guest appearance.
Puzzlingly, the other band that kept coming to mind was Skillet. I’m not talking post Collide (come back album of the century) Skillet, I’m talking the industrial synthesized clanging of Invincible-era Skillet. This is even more of a head scratcher when you realize that Benson has produced Skillet, as well, and yet said he wanted only new sounds.
Don’t let this make you think that “Release the Panic” is all bad. It is not. Overall, the album is fairly solid. The writing is cohesive, the guitars and drums are mixed well, and Michael’s somewhat signature vocals are pitch perfect. Still, the final product feels slightly underwhelming.
Thematically, Red continues to produce dark and expansive songs that deal with real life issues. For the most part, the album questions the appearance of what a “good” life really looks like (especially “Perfect Life”), admits personal failures and shortcomings (especially “Damage,” “Same Disease,” and “Release the Panic”), and gives some hope for healing (“Hold Me Now,”The Moment We Come Alive”).
In terms of full thematic progression, however, you need the deluxe edition to get the complete and final story. While the standard edition ends well with “The Moment We Come Alive,” it is “As You Go” that gives the proper conclusion to the themes of brokenness and redemption that are sometimes only alluded to in the standard edition.
“Release the Panic” and “Damage” both come out blasting with chugging guitars and aggressive vocals. As mentioned, both could be confused for B-Sides from Love and Death’s newest album without anyone really being the wiser. “If We Only” would also fit into this category, though the chorus of this track does not quite fit that mold.
“Perfect Life” and “Glass House” tackle the idea of being real with the struggles of life and pains of the world. “Perfect Life” is one prime example of a track that could easily have fit on Skillet’s industrial album Invincible. “Glass House” provides a nice counter to “Perfect Life,” however. Where “Perfect Life” focuses primarily on the problem, “Glass House” focuses on being honest before God. The lyrics, “You alone can see through this glass house we call home. You alone can take away of the pain. You alone can break through the glass house of our souls. Make us whole again,” provide a great example of Red bookending two songs to create story progression and flow. “Glass House” is a highlight track on the album. It sounds distinctly Red and incorporates their signature piano driven rock sound that has been a staple of so many of their radio tracks.
“Die For You” and “Same Disease” are the next example of a tracks ripped from Invincible. The industrial synth and higher octave vocals stand out and break from the typical Red guttural vocals, but still fit well within Michael’s range. As each track progresses, the sound does return a little more to “signature Red” with the exception of the occasional synthed vocals and metal clanging in the background. Benson’s touch is most apparent on
“Die For You,” as it certainly sounds like some of the work he’s done with P.O.D. in the past. “Same Disease,” on the other hand reminds me of where bands like Marilyn Manson and NIN were going in the 90’s.
“Hold Me Now” and “So Far Away” sound more like what Red has produced in the past and are each more radio friendly than most of the rest of the album. These are also the more directly spiritual tracks. While Red certainly wears their faith on their sleeves, it is veiled behind the chaos of this world in earlier tracks.
If you purchase the “regular” edition of Release the Panic, then your album will end with “The Moment We Come Alive.” This track does well as a closing song. It is an anthemic track that nods to all of the pain and torment brought up through the rest of the album, yet finally points clearly to an answer beyond ourselves. “The Moment We Come Alive” is truly one of the highlight tracks of the album. It is just hard enough to satisfy one crowd and just tender enough for the other without alienating either.
Deluxe Edition Exclusive Tracks: If you pick up the Deluxe Edition, your musical experience will continue through two additional original tracks and three remixes. I will not discuss the remixes, as… they’re remixes. They’re great as additional content and they’re fun, but the average person will never prefer them to the originals. I will note, however, the irony in the fact that the “Hymn for the Missing” remix was missing from my review copy of the album.
The two original tracks that are added by the Deluxe Edition, then, are “Love Will Leave a Mark” and “As You Go.” “Love Will Leave a Mark” is a serviceable song with only a slight industrial flare. The lyrics are a little obvious (at least the pre-chorus/chorus), but the track is not necessarily the lesser for it. “As You Go,” on the other hand, is almost worth the cost of the extra tracks by itself. As I mentioned above, “As You Go” feels like a more perfect close to the album from an experience standpoint. The lyrics, “The world alone can hate you. The world alone can break you. But, as you go remember I’m by your side. The love within you can heal these tears that burn and through it all remember I’m by your side as you go,” becomes one of the most hauntingly beautiful moments on the album as it echoes back Jesus’ final earthly words (Matthew 28:20) that He will be with us to the end of the age.
Overall: Release the Panic is neither a masterpiece, nor is it deplorable. Despite claiming to cover mostly new ground, the final product is scattered. Many tracks sound like they were taken directly off of Love and Death or Skillet albums. In spite of this, Release the Panic has some really solid moments. Fans of their past work will certainly want to pick this one up. The Deluxe Edition may be worth the extra cost, if only for “As You Go,” though the bulk of the extra tracks are remixes.
RIYL: Love and Death, Skillet, Staple