Review Summary: Of dichotomies and dynamic shifts.
A viral YouTube marketing campaign. An accompanying graphic novel. A curiously precise album run-time of exactly one hour and one second. A perfectly-timed album leak into the greyer corners of the internet. The pretentiously-titled Of Beauty And Rage
reads like the work of a cynical marketing department catering to the now-grown generation of Creed, Final Fantasy VII, Surge, and Ferrari F355 Spider posters. Whereas I feel as though Essential Record's expectation was that I would be intrigued by the mere announcement of a perfectly obvious follow-up to Red's slow-burning classic Innocence and Instinct
, I found myself increasingly skeptical of this seemingly precise finger on the pulse of the band's most rabid fanbase.
So consider that my "Superb" rating of this album stems from my abject cynicism reducing beneath the crushing weight of the music presented here. That Of Beauty and Rage
draws largely from Red's work prior to the largely-panned Release The Panic
should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the group's impressive discography; that it draws it primarily from debut End of Silence
, however, should. Instead of aiming for the more radio-friendly melodies and catchy hooks of the aformentioned Instinct
, Red has strongly focused this record on the interplay between loud and soft and between organic and mechanical. The overuse of dissonant strings, industrial backbeats, and warbling synthesizers has long been the subject of much criticism heaped upon Red, but here they are all absolutely essential to the dynamic ebb and flow of this record. Tracks such as "Imposter," "Of These Chains," and album highlight "Gravity Lies" are fantastic examples of this, while tracks such as "Falling Sky" and "What You Keep Alive" prove that their signature groove metal still runs in Red's veins. Singles "Darkest Part" and "Yours Again" are predictably the most radio friendly of the bunch, but aside from the Linkin-Park-esque "Take Me Over," there really is not much else here that could easily fit on the airwaves.
That's the beauty of this album - it takes a generic form of radio-rock that Red arguably perfected and sheds the accessibility in favor of depth. When vocalist Michael Barnes croons "I never wanted you to see / the darkest part of me" or "The terror is real this time / under a falling sky" there's a distinct feeling of authenticity about his plight that just simply was not present on previous efforts. Sure, the lyrical content is still martyr complex shoegaze and introspection, but at least it feels more genuinely complex
this time around, set to the tune of less imminently singable but more daring melodies. Of Beauty and Rage
produces lyrics and accompaniment that mimic its predecessors and maybe even some of its competitors, but those individual words and sounds stack up to something more than the sum of their parts - and the whole album is likewise elevated above its component tracks.
However, it would not be fair of me to heap such deserved praise on the album without levelling some form of criticism at its faults. Of these, the most glaring is the group's odd reversal of the technical skill nurtured on Until We Have Faces
and Release the Panic
. When rhythms inevitably get more complex and syncopated, the guitar work gets inversely simplified - almost all of the intricacies of this record are attributable only to the string and synth arrangements, as the guitars are mostly relegated to de-tuned rhythm and bass duties. In fact, there are precious few memorable guitar or bass riffs on tap here, which effectively weakens each track as a standalone unit. Other missteps are comparatively minor, such as the awkward rhythmic asymmetry on the lead line of "Shadow and Soul" and the lyrical fan-service of the otherwise musically fantastic "The Ever," which serves as a blatant reminder that Red wants to remind you that you remember Innocence and Instinct.
In the wake of the whole, however, these complaints are mere nitpicking and nothing more.
As a slick, shiny, highly-produced album that, by all external evidence, should indicate Red's refusal for musical growth and a contentment with churning out more and more Instinct
clones, Of Beauty and Rage
manages to supersede its predecessors, largely due to its own lyrical and musical polarization. It is an album that is in perfect harmony with itself; it is the fullest realization of the the group's potential thus far, evoking only beauty and invoking very little rage. Highly recommended.