Red – ‘Of Beauty and Rage’ review
When it comes to Christian heavy rock music, Red is a powerhouse that has often set the bar high for bass-heavy symphonic ballads. The refined string arrangements that often lace the band’s music and subtle, yet dramatic screaming sections set Red apart from other bands in the genre such as Disciple and August Burns Red; they add a certain personal element while still remaining a powerhouse of face-melting sound.
Frontman Michael Barnes breathes new life into Red’s latest release, “Of Beauty and Rage,” with his snarly vocals that invoke a certain call to order, like evicting the Devil from your basement because he’s been partying too loud.
A follow-up to their often-critiqued mediocre 2013 album “Release the Panic,” the fifth full-length studio release brings the quartet back to basics with beautifully orchestrated string sections interlocking with rapid metal progressions. There are elements of actual dynamics, as opposed to the highly produced pop beats of “Release the Panic.”
Barnes’ diverse vocals tear through each song with finesse and rage, such as an aggressive mother swan. The introduction track “Imposter” hits hard and is followed up by “Shadow and Soul,” which brings the band to its more long-form songs that piece together the musings of a troubled soul, similar to “Let Go” from its 2006 premier album “End of Silence.”
Red’s phoenix-like rise to its old ways can be attributed to the return of original producer Rob Graves. Also, the fact that the band sat down to write this album and conduct the strings while not under the stress of a massive tour really attributed to its triumphant return.
Although “Of Beauty and Rage” still lacks a certain youthful fervor that “End of Silence” nailed, it certainly has its high points. Fans who lost hope in their more recent efforts such as 2011’s “Until We Have Faces” (which felt a little washed out), and the remix album accompanying “Release the Panic” (which is a tired-out concept to begin with).
One major detail I particularly enjoyed about “Rage” is the fact that it was missing the heartfelt, borderline-cheesy ballad that is usually a staple in any Red album following “Pieces” from their first album. Although “Pieces” was a phenomenal love story about God putting someone back together like puzzle pieces. However, in any album after that, the ballads were too try-hardy or something you would hear on a Christian contemporary radio station (which, by the way, you did). This is by no means a great image for a heavy rock band to keep, but it is a way for the band to get a wider audience, albeit mostly soccer moms.
“Rage” is a grand step back in time to the group’s glory days. Many fans, including myself, thought that maybe Red had sold out and become another pawn in the Christian music conglomerate, but this latest release sets the band back; maybe not to square one, but a higher ground than before.