Review Summary: Great album undermined by lack of effort.
Red is a rare breed within the rock genre. Precious few bands possess the caliber of lead singer, Michael Barnes. And while others, such as Skillet, have tried to create an epic, string-based sound in the vein of Evanescence, few have consistently pulled it off in the way Red has. While their 2011 release Until We Have Faces lacked some of the creativity and edge of their first two albums, it was still a great record. However, this time for their fourth outing, Release The Panic, Red has alienated much of their original sound and possibly many of their fans in the process. The most notable difference being the lack of strings for the duration of the album and the simpler, more cookie-cutter song structures.
The record kicks off with the title-track, 'Release The Panic' where we hear more of an industrial influence with some electronic elements present. The intricate riffs have been replaced by a wall of power chords. And the screams that were typically reserved for cranking up the intensity at just the right moment are now all over the place in songs such as the aforementioned 'Release The Panic' and the heaviest track, 'Damage.' The latter is possibly Red's heaviest song ever with maybe the exception of 'Feed The Machine' from UWHF. While these two songs, along with the rocker 'If We Only' are screaming power-houses, it's as if Red packed all their screams and intensity into three songs and mostly skipped the rest. The balance of the album is made up of mid-tempo rockers and a couple ballads. Red has never been a ridiculously heavy band but the general absence of heavy tracks gives this record a laid-back feel that is too chill for a band such as Red.
While many fans seem disgruntled over Red's move away from the string elements, the lack of strings isn't the real problem. Personally, I prefer Red with strings as opposed to without. Nevertheless, there are songs on this record, such as the mellow 'Hold Me Now' and emotion-driven 'So Far Away' that show that Red is still capable of producing quality music even without strings. Michael Barnes' vocal delivery on RTP is one of his most passionate yet and largely carries the album. The greater issue is the overly-simplistic lyrics and song structures, with the biggest offender being 'Same Disease.' The chorus seems to be mostly filler with the repetition of "I am immune to you, you are immune to me, we are both sick souls with the same disease." The hackneyed approach to this song and others like 'Perfect Life' and the poppy track, 'Die For You,' takes away from that type of grand sound that Red is better known for.
With all this being said, RTP gets more hate than what it deserves. Songs like the previously mentioned 'Hold Me Now,' 'If We Only' and 'So Far Away' are all examples of Red doing what they've always done well. While the "poppier" offerings are not of the same quality as previous Red material they still showcase a fun side of Red that had not been seen before up until this point. And even though a number of tracks feel a bit lazy, they're still surprisingly enjoyable to listen to. There are plenty of hooks present with a lot of melody to go around. Also, had this been Red's first album it probably would have garnered much more praise as opposed to the general criticism it has received. The biggest fault of this record mostly comes from the fact that we all know Red can and has done better.
In the end, then, Release The Panic is an album that dares to be different but only partially succeeds-not because it is different but because the effort required to pull it off is not there. This is still an enjoyable listen, though, just not as much as what it could have been.