Review Summary: The New and Exciting Evolution of RED.
It’s no secret that RED is my favorite band. I can’t think of a band that has impacted me or shaped my music taste more than RED has. They’ve helped me through the darkest parts of my life and every other moment in between. I’ve been a fan of these guys since 2015 when “Of Beauty and Rage” came out. That record changed my life in more ways than I can count. It remains in my Top 3 favorite albums of all time. Yes that’s right. ALL TIME. Their other records aren’t too far behind though. “End of Silence”, “Innocence & Instinct”, “Until We Have Faces”, and “Gone” are all albums I love dearly. Even “Release the Panic” is an album that I still really like, even with its glaring production issues. It’s safe to say that I know this band’s music in and out like the back of my hand.
Now when I heard the band was going independent I was excited that they weren’t going to retire since they weren’t going to be on a record label anymore. Last June we got the first single “The Evening Hate” which was one of my favorite songs of the entire year. It’s actually become one of my all time favorite RED songs, so I was totally on board with this new direction that the band was taking. You can tell that the band was returning to their signature classic sound while expanding it even further into Alternative Metal territory. I was really excited to see how the band would follow up “Gone.” Guitarist Anthony Armstrong promised fans that the record would be heavy and extremely honest and real. That’s a bold statement when considering their back catalog, and it made me even more hyped. So did we get what the band promised with “Declaration?”
The simple answer is absolutely. I’ll just say it right now, this record is superb from front to back. Not only did they fulfill their promise of making a heavy album, they also brought a new layer of rawness and versatility that feels very fresh. This is easily their heaviest and darkest record to date. Yes even darker than “Innocence & Instinct” and “Of Beauty and Rage.” I think the best compliment I can give to this record is that the tracklist is so airtight that there’s not much room for filler. Every track is lively and energetic in some way, shape or form. Even my least favorite track “Only Fight” has a really cool vibe to it that almost feels like it could be a Nine Inch Nails song. It also has some of Micheal Barnes’ rawest screams to date. I can’t stress enough how great it is to be able to play an album from front to back with ease. “Declaration” definitely fits that bill at only 38 minutes of runtime. It goes by so quick that I often want to replay it. That speaks volumes of the quality within the record.
We’re in a time where the Alternative Metal genre has definitely run its course, but somehow RED managed to breathe new life into it. The best part about it is that they played to their strengths and made an Alt. Metal record that feels familiar but also original at the same time. They just took the framework of the genre and made it better, adding in some nu metal, metal core and post-hardcore elements as well. Of course it can’t be a great RED record without the use of strings and piano. I’ve always stated that not many bands incorporate orchestral instruments better than RED does. They’re just masters at creating a dark and cinematic atmosphere. A lot of that should be credited to their longtime producer Rob Graves, who could be seen as the fifth member of the band at this point. The way he combines these string arrangements with the band’s alt metal sound is a thing of beauty. It’s what has always set RED apart from their contemporaries, and it’s what drew me into them right away. Bands like Skillet can’t even compete with them anymore cause they’ve really fallen off track. RED has continued to stay consistent while tweaking their sound a bit to not become stagnant like Skillet, Three Days Grace, etc.
The entire band is on their A game. Micheal Barnes unleashes some of his most aggressive screams to date, along with some of his best clean singing as well. I tell you his durability and range still blows me away, and he reaches new heights on this record. He’s one of the biggest reasons why the album is as good as it is. I also can’t forget the Armstrong twins, because they’re the ones weaving in these really memorable guitar riffs and lyrics with the great drumming from Dan Johnson. The hooks are some of the best that the band has ever written as well. The bottom heavy mix really adds a lot of aggression to these heavy riffs that blend beautifully with the strings and Micheal’s vocals. Lyrically, we still get the classic RED formula, but there’s an added layer of depth to a lot of these songs like “Cauterize” which is easily one of the best songs on the record. I also can’t forget to mention tracks like “Sever”, “Infidel”, “All For You”, and “The Victim” for having compelling lyrics. I love how “The War We Made” is like a follow up to their song “Already Over.” It really feels like a song taken from the “End Of Silence” playbook, which it’s awesome. “Float” is arguably the band’s heaviest track to date with Michael going off the chain in most of it. His screams never feel forced or contrived.
Yea you probably get it at this point. I love this record, and I think it was a great way to kick off their independent career. I’m going to wrap this review up with my overall thoughts. It does seem like my huge bias towards this band is why I love it so much, but I truly think this is an excellent alt metal record objectively speaking. It may not be the most innovative thing in the world but it gets the job done extremely well. It takes the classic RED sound and expands it to new heights. The deep emotion. The passion. It’s all here in this 10 song package. I do have a couple of critiques, but they’re pretty minor. No, this album isn’t perfect and that’s fine because not many albums are. The production could be a bit beefier and some of the songwriting choices could have been better, but I can’t complain too much since they’re independent now, so they can’t sound as polished as they used to. Overall, this is an excellent record from RED. Another masterstroke in their extremely consistent discography. It’s not quite as good as some of their earlier material, but it’s fantastic nonetheless and I’ll be playing it for years to come. My personal favorite album that’s been released this year so far. As many reviewers have said, their choice to go independent is the best choice they could’ve made. They created the record that they wanted to make without having a record company breathing on their neck all the time, and telling them what they can or can’t release. It’s definitely my personal favorite album that’s been released this year so far. I can’t wait to see what they do next, as I’ll always be hyped for the new evolution of my favorite band RED! :)
Score: 9.6/10 (Highly Recommend)
Favorite Tracks: Infidel, The Evening Hate, Cauterize, Sever, All For You, Float, From the Ashes