Review Summary: No sophomore slump here as the band begin to find their own sound.
Despite the fact that Red is often labeled ‘mainstream rock’ they aren’t actually very mainstream as far as sales or popularity goes. Too many people have been quick to write them off for their minor nu-metal influence and their major Linkin Park
worship for them to really be widely accepted. What those people who ignored this band have missed, however, is a beautifully crafted debut album that made up with emotion what it lacked in originality. Based on their debut, when the band began work on a second album a lot of people were quick to assume that they’d continue to follow Linkin Park by diving straight in to Nu-AOR hell, but it never happened.
It might come as a surprise that Red’s reliance on Linkin Park for inspiration has finally dissipated, but it really has and their sound has become more original for it. The heavier riffs are fat, lively and aggressive to the point that a few times I had to make sure I was still listening to the same band. The riffs aren’t the only facet of the band’s sound to gain a healthy dose of anger, though; so have the vocals. Even though there were screams on the debut, I always equated them more to a stomping tantrum than actual aggression but that has changed. The vocalist’s screams are now much more forceful, adding a level of actual hostility that was lacking from the debut. Despite all the talk about the band’s new ability to convey heaviness and hostility they are still very adept at the mellower stuff as well.
Much like the heavier sections, the mellower parts have become more focused and effective than anything on the previous album. While never dropping into ballad territory (except for “Take it all Away”), the band does make frequent and effective use of quieter sections where the orchestration takes more of a lead role and Michael Barnes’ vocals expose a vulnerable quality. The great thing is that no matter the mood or tempo, the emotion still comes across with the ease one would expect from this band. All of this is made possible and more apparent due to an increased emphasis on actual songwriting instead of simply making the choruses the only part of a song to get any attention.
To put it simply, Red has stopped focusing so much on big choruses and more on the song as a total package. While this might make each track a little less instant it also makes them more rewarding with more replay value in the long-run. Obviously, the choruses are still there and they’re still catchy, it’s just that they’re now held within the context of fully developed songs where every note counts and contributes. This increased emphasis on actual songs has also expanded itself to the orchestral parts that were so prominent on the debut.
On the debut, the orchestral parts sometimes seemed like an afterthought, as if they were simply placed over the top of songs that were already complete. This time they’re not only fully integrated in to the songs, but their level of development and variation means that they don’t make the songs sound overly similar as they were prone to doing previously. When all of these elements are taken together; the heavy sections, the effective mellow sections, the improved vocals and orchestration and the superior song writing, it leads to an album that is completely enjoyable for any fan of the band as well as anyone disillusioned with the direction of a lot of the bands that are played on the radio.
At a time when mainstream rock and metal acts continue to lose their edge and pander more and more to the largest audience possible (Linkin Park, Staind), it was definitely a surprise that Red would progress in the direction that they did. While they can still wear the moniker of ‘mainstream rock’ they’re verging dangerously close to taking on a new, less consumer friendly label. The vitriol in the riffs and the darkness of the songs (despite their ‘silver lining’ lyrics) are going to scare off a lot of the people that loved their first album, but for those of us that are left we are treated to one of the best mainstream rock/metal albums to come out in awhile.