Red – Release the Panic
Sonny Music Entertainment
Michael Barnes (vocals)
Anthony Armstrong (guitars)
Randy Armstrong (bass, piano)
Joe Rickard (drums)
Rock band Red has returned with their fourth full-length studio album entitled Release the Panic. The album continues in the trend of Until We Have Faces, with catchy choruses, melodic hooks, and touching ballads. Much of Red’s success can be contributed to lead singer Michael Barnes, who sings with constant energy and passion throughout each album. His voice has slowly become more robust over the years; listen to End of Silence, and then Release the Panic, and what I mean will become self-evident. Nevertheless, a potent question must be raised as Red continues to gain commercial success: are they leaving their roots in order to gain more mainstream attention?
I think that this is a very important question for the band to address. With each successive album, Red has included fewer and fewer moments of melodic instrumentation. While their first two albums saw a prolific use of keys, violin, and cello, this formula has gradually been sloughing off. The element was there in Until We Have Faces, especially on the ballad that ended the record, but it is almost absent on Release the Panic. There is a keyboard intro and a few other moments, but generally the band has decided to include fewer symphonic pieces. Strings have gone out the window. Whether or not this is conscious is another question that must be addressed: in order to garner more mainstream attention, has Red stricken the violin from their records? There is nothing wrong with Red’s current formula, but in my opinion, the symphonic elements were what made the band unique and powerful.
This critique aside, that is not to say that Release the Panic is not a good album. Some of the most memorable pieces that the band has ever coined are on this album. The groove of “Die For You” is not easily forgotten. In addition, the band delves into heavier sonic territory reminiscent of “Feed the Machine” with the songs “Release the Panic” and “Damage.” In fact, there seems to be a strong nu metal influence on “Damage.” A song like “Same Disease” is an instant Red classic ranked right alongside “Lost in Pieces,” “Shadows,” and “Who We Are.” The song “Glass House” has excellent drums and a few underlying melodic parts. The token ballad on Release the Panic is powerful. “Hold Me Now” invokes images of admissible insecurity and a longing for an idealized love. Barnes is at his best performance in this song, even treading into new octave territory. The album clincher, “The Moment We Come Alive” yanks at the heartstrings and doesn’t let go. In fact, the only thing that seems to be missing from this song is an epic violin building to a crescendo.
Red is still alive, and this album proves it. Four albums in, they are still making accessible, powerful music. This is saying a lot when many bands fizzle out after a few releases or never retain the glory of their past. If you enjoy rock at all, then you should give this album a listen. Mix an ice-cold lemonade after a stressful day at work, sit down on the outside veranda, and let Red Release the Panic. You’ll be glad that you did.
Overall rating: 7.2 out of 10.0 (Excellent)
Musicianship: 7.5 out of 10.0
Song structure: 7.5 out of 10.0
Album structure: 6.5 out of 10.0
How did I come up with my rating? I rate the following categories: musicianship, song structure, and album structure. I then take an average of these three scores and come up with an overall rating.
1.0-2.9 (Poor: musicianship is poor, song structures are haphazard, no directional flow)
3.0-4.9 (Good: musicianship is sloppy, song structures are undeveloped, flow is hampered)
5.0-6.9 (Average: musicianship is adequate, song structures are good, flow works most of the time)
7.0-8.9 (Excellent: musicianship is very good, song structures are thought out, songs connect well)
9.0-9.9 (Superior: musicianship is superb, song structures are varied, flow is almost flawless)
Note: Ratings may be given in increments of 0.1 for a final score (rounded up) and 0.5 for individual category scores. I will never give a rating of 10.0 because I do not believe that any one album can be "perfect," and the ratings at either end of the spectrum will be very few.
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