Review Summary: Much of what you expect but lacking what you loved about it in the first placeUntil We Have Faces
is that album they
, i.e. the industry, wanted Red to make, but we
didn’t – more or less safe and marketable, lacking the ‘innocence’, the ‘instinct’, those qualities that made Red an interesting time-tested alternate hard rock band to begin with, being grouped with Breaking Benjamin
and Three Days Grace
, yet not being of
them and their shi
tty ilk. This year Red find their faces, essentially, and become like the herd on this new album and, well - oh sure, there’s some awesome tracks to be found along the way. But for the most part we have the makings of a band that’s just re-making itself here for another album, like the majority of radio rock bands out there. Yawn.
This is upsetting, because along with the likes of Chevelle
, Red are one of the last hopes for mainstream rock. Tool
won’t release another album for decades, for instance, but don’t quote me on that, and the very same could be said for A Perfect Circle
, too, so, well, um, we rockin’ radio-heads are fu
cked. Thanks, Red.
All that to say Until We Have Faces
actually isn’t a bad album, even though it may appear to fans as so, given the quality of Red’s first two releases. What you have here is a recycling of sorts – bits of this melody here sound like that melody there: first single “Faceless” is close-kin to Innocence and Instinct
's “Shadows”, and “Let It Burn” has its own identity as a passionate emotional ballad but steps into End of Silence
's “Let Go”-land with its surging yet plagiarized close. Though nothing on Until We Have Faces
is a direct copy of 2009's Innocence and Instinct
or 2006's End of Silence
, per se, given that the band does not stray from the core ingredients of its sound that it’s been using sense its inception – crunchy guitars and strings, mid-tempo drums, etc. – you can’t escape this feeling of deja vu when listening to the album.
True, this feeling would have been expected with any
album that Red put out at this point in their career, to some degree. For it could be said that the very reasons that hurt Until We Have Faces
are the reasons that we enjoy the band in the first place, especially in the case of lead vocalist Michael Barnes, the perfect cross between Chevelle
’s Pete Loeffler and Breaking Benjamin
’s Benjamin Burley. Yet the difference here that makes the ingredients to Red’s sound a good thing, fresh and emotional, or a bad thing, generic and tiring, lies strictly in the area of the band’s songwriting and how it uses its sound. On Until We Have Faces
, Red are just not up to par with their past work. Sure, “Lie To Me” is essentially Linkin Park
when they were kinda-sorta good back in the day – one of those pseudo-epic nu metal intros with an angsty chorus in tow that is bound to stick in your mind for days, and the same can be said for “Watch You Crawl”. But most notably about these tracks, even if they still borrow from Red’s past and like contemporaries, they sound motivated
, not generic and, uh, lazy, like a large percentage of the rest of the album.
Laziness comes in the forms of a few rockers and most of Until We Have Faces
’ ballads, which are rather numerous on this album: “Let It Burn”, “Not Alone”, “Best Is Yet To Come”, and “Hymn For The Missing”. Generic sentiments on top of lackluster melodies make for bad combinations here, and given that Red, in general, keep their level of fire and anger low on this album, things tend not to fair that well for the band when it takes a breather, particularly on the second half of the album. “The Outside” is a rocker as repetitive and filler-ish as any Nickelback
b-side on this end of the album, too, and “Who We Are” has the ingredients for success with a catchy verse melody, yet for whatever reason falls flat on its face once it hits the chorus sections as well. Fans and those slightly interested best keep their attention on the start of Until We Have Faces
because of this, as the Fear Factory
-esque “Feed The Machines” and mid-tempo rocker “Buried Beneath” are where Red show the Red who we know and love: melodic but not boring and overly derivative of themselves. Too bad most of the album can’t hold out as strong.
Until We Have Faces
is that mid-career mainstream rock album that is bound to keep Red alive financially but will aggravate critics and fans, to an extent. The band is recycling itself, not just the elements of its sound, which is welcome and expected, but in the area of its songwriting. Nearly half or more of Until We Have Faces
sounds tired and generic, which is something Red fans are not used to when it comes to the band's albums. And while there are a number of tracks here that are definitely worth checking out and going to concerts for, it really seems like Red have started to reach the limits of their creativity. Still, as mentioned above, this could change, all while keeping the band's core sound intact, by just it striking a wealth of quality songwriting next time around. Red have found their faces; they're one of mainstream rock's best, but let's just hope that they bring more of what we love next time around: orchestrated rock is fine - it's here on Until We Have Faces
- but we want quality songs all the way through an album.