Review Summary: Moving out of their comfort zone and into new territory; though that territory itself is a bit overdone.
Parting ways with longtime producer Rob Graves and teaming up with modern rock producer Howard Benson, – known for his past work with other Christian rock bands such as Skillet, P.O.D., Flyleaf, and Creed – Red’s fourth album Release the Panic
sees the group leap out of the heavily symphonic-based alternative metal music they’ve established for themselves and into a more commanding electronic rock sound.
Red had developed a lush and powerful atmosphere that befit their passionate faith-fueled nu metal on their sophomore album Innocence & Instinct
. Forming a signature symphonic rock sound through strings and soaring melodies firmly set them apart from the rest of their post-grunge contemporaries, and disproved any accusations that they were nothing more than Linkin Park and Chevelle wannabes. The group’s third album Until We Have Faces
saw the band further doing what worked best for them already, but that resulted in an overly safe and uninventive album that embraced the conventions they made for themselves to a weaker effect than before.
Release the Panic
doesn’t use their own signature elements in an overly excessive fashion. “So Far Away” and “Glass House” are actually the only two tracks that feature a prominent usage of the string sections that make up their sound. While the album has the usual melodic ballads such as “Hold Me Now” and “The Moment We Come Alive” concerning their faith that don’t seem as grand, effective, or unique without orchestral characteristics present, Release the Panic
mainly focuses on honing the band’s main strength outside of symphonies; that being the heaviness of their metal anthems.
In the past, Red has preferred to use synths to create hushed ambient undertones in their music. Release the Panic
, however, sees the band diving headfirst into more harsh and driving electronic rock that isn’t the industrial route most other nu metal acts take when incorporating electronics into their music. There’s a blistering synth line that opens “Die For You” before the song’s chugging riffs contrast surprisingly well with a more poppier vocal approach from frontman Michael Barnes. The ominous humming of synths continues to make great friction with deep guitar wails on the following track “Damaged”, in which Barnes shows off his screaming capabilities at their most menacing and shatters any comparisons made between him and Linkin Park lead vocalist Chester Bennington.
The album’s weakest moments are its first two songs (as well as singles) “Release the Panic” and “Perfect Life” that seem a little bare bones and shallow for Red, and are vaguely reminiscent of pop punk more than they resemble hard rock. This does show Red demonstrating more control over just how hard or soft they want to rock, but the tracks can seem whiney, and definitely conflict with and pale in comparison to the juggernaut “If We Only” that’s easily the strongest song on the album, as it embodies every angle of Red’s music from the newly infused electronic rock, to their signature strings.
By mostly shedding their old layer of skin and staying the course of modern hard rock, Red has found themselves seeming a little naked and a little more unremarkable within a done-to-death sound. They're now showing the generic elements of their post-grunge foundation more than before, but on Release the Panic
they still play and feel like they’re their own band, and one that isn’t allowing themselves to be limited by the staple traits of their sound at that.