Review Summary: Still (barely) alive
The lyrical line “I'm still alive, what's it all for?” is probably the most perfect description I can give Gone
. For a band that's been in the foray of alternative/symphonic metal since their inception, they've managed to prove themselves that they are one of the more unique groups out there. Combining orchestral composition with raw and crunchy post-grunge is certainly no easy task, and Red essentially perfected it with their second album Innocence & Instinct
and have been trying to recapture that same process several times over. Since then the band fell short several times over the past eight years and have struggled to maintain their relevancy. Release the Panic
's whack at drawing more mainstream audiences was met with negative reactions from fans, Until We Have Faces
lacked personality and memorability, and Of Beauty and Rage
was an overlong, overproduced slog in a failed attempt to recapture the glory days (and their detractors). Gone
is pretty much what the album title implies, it seems that their inspiration has vanished, at least somewhat.
That's not to say the band has fallen into the deep end. Red still manages to crank out enough energy and enough decent songwriting skills to create some solid tunes. Gone
features some of the groups heaviest material with openers 'Step Inside, the Violence' and 'Still Alive'. Michael Barnes is still at his peak performance with his soulful cleans and his harsh, desperate-sounding screams ripping through both tracks, while tracks such as 'Losing Control', 'A.I.', and closer 'Singularity' masterfully create a bleak and haunting atmosphere that is certainly helped by Rob Graves's production. However, instead of using the usual orchestral composition to filter in that atmosphere that the band have been widely known to use, most of Gone
's atmospheric layering is done through electronics, something that Red is no stranger towards. While it certainly works in some areas, this is where the shortcomings come in. Many of the production choices at times devolve into borderline Starset-worship, the title track being a perfect example (ironically enough, Dustin Bates co-wrote two tracks). If there is something to prove about that part in 'Gone' where Barnes sings “gaa-ohh-aa-ooonnne” it's that Red can not do the poppier side of metal correctly. Hell they manage to butcher the Sia cover 'Unstoppable' if that didn't convince you. But here's the one thing that Red has always had a problem with, and that's they've never managed to make their instrumentation stand out. A lot of what they write in terms of their guitars, bass and drums...it's just never really interesting at all. Granted, Red was never about that in the first place, but time and time again they fail to really bring out any form of talent with the Armstrong brothers. There's nothing noteworthy about them, and therefore there's nothing memorable.
Going back to the lyrical line I mentioned in the beginning, Gone
effectively states that Red are still around, but found themselves at a creative halt. Sure Michael Barns can still deliver a kick ass vocal performance and some of the production elements help give Red a unique edge in the sub-genre of alt metal, but what else is there? There's nothing new or noteworthy to be said about this record other than they did a cover of Sia (a really odd choice if you think about it). It's an unremarkable staple in Red's otherwise solid discography that more or less keeps meddling in Rob Graves' self-indulgence. So after those 37 minutes, Red just needs to answer the question they asked, “What's it all for?”