Two years ago when I reviewed Release The Panic, the letdown of a fourth record by hard rock trio Red, I left readers with a hopeful prediction:
Well, Red proved just that. Their follow-up to the bland Panic returns to the group’s roots – chilling strings, booming guitars, and an overall menacing vibe – in the most epic way possible. The trio has allowed time to intensify their music, standing strong while other hard rock bands, Skillet and Three Days Grace included, have simply passed their heydays. Rob Graves, who produced Red’s first three records and is back again for Of Beauty And Rage, helps the band recapture their classic style in a riotous, modern way. He makes sure each track bleeds inescapability, providing listeners with equal parts conflict and tenacity in one of the most thrilling rock albums in years.
You’ve got to give the members most of the credit, though. They wrote an intimidating 61 minutes of material. With three songs topping the five-minute mark, this one runs even longer than Innocence & Instinct, plus its intro and bonus tracks. And in the hour-plus alt-metal romp, the seasoned veterans don’t waste any time proving to listeners that they’re back in true form, nor do they allow anyone to even consider that they’ve passed their prime. Because they haven’t. Sure, this record may not be the truly anthemic, conceptual genius that their 2009 album was, but for the enormous, hard-hitting, and musically grandiose monster that it strives to be, it does a reputable job.
Though OB&R doesn’t have the standout power that Red’s first few records featured, many early songs are great in their own right. This includes the two-headed beast “Shadow And Soul” and “Darkest Part,” which burst through their ceilings with huge choruses and melodies. The record departs from the simplicity of Panic with its layers upon layers of emotion, from the beckoning instrumental aura to Michael Barnes’ beaming vocals. Everything is packed into an orchestral base that sways with the canorous pounce and offsets every ounce of menace, yet finds the ability to dive deep into its own on the subsequent “Fight To Forget.” In this track, Anthony Armstrong smashes both guitars together like magic. The focus is on both speed and power, and Graves’ skin-tight polish gets the trio to the finish line.
Working with Graves again and unflinchingly diving back into their roots doesn’t stop Red from growing. Of Beauty And Rage showcases songwriting prowess all-around. The band ups the ante on their punishers, with “Gravity Lies” displaying a scream-sung duality and “What You Keep Alive” being the band’s heaviest cuts ever. Then they turn it around and bear huge hearts on the piano-led “Of These Chains” and “Part That’s Holding On,” mid-tempo ballads that brings out a positive vibe without being cookie-cutter. But where Red really holds their own is in the record’s flow. They may chomp away at listeners from start to finish, but they slow down whenever things begin to blend together. Three strings tracks break things up and also keep OB&R’s cinematic feel intact. A concept album of sorts, this record points to redemption even in the darkest moments. There may be an overload of good-versus-evil metaphors, as always, but Red speaks inspired thoughts more often than not. The theme of eternal life is high above all else, and perhaps that’s what “Ascent” alludes to with its hopeful strings finale.
It’s tough to say whether Of Beauty And Rage is the band’s best album, but after such a lackluster record in Release The Panic, I’m more pleased than I’ve ever been with a Red album. Regardless of where it stands in their catalogue, the trio should hold it as their proudest accomplishment. They’re no longer young with the world in their hands, yet they still write fearlessly about their beliefs and play a ruthless style of hard rock. Running back to their roots was the best thing these guys could’ve done. And it works because the band’s not staying complacent there. Instead, by reclaiming their core, they’ve attained the willpower to grow. On this album, the band explored maturity and personal motives, and triumphantly, they brought the best out of themselves.
Even in their down times, I believed in Red, and it paid off. Of Beauty And Rage may be a small example, but from its Christian roots to its dark, reamplified shell, it demonstrates the beauty of faith.
Alternative Metal | Essential Records