Red - Release the Panic 90 x 90And, now, for something completely different ...

Essential Records
15 Tracks (54:09)

Whatever else they may be, fans of the heavy metal outfit Red are certainly a passionate lot.  When the Tennessee quartet’s debut outing, End of Silence, dropped in the late spring of 2006, legions of die-hard fans sprung up, seemingly overnight, hailing the band’s hard-rocking, grunge-loving compositions as the best thing since sliced bread. And, truth be told, while detractors correctly noted that the foursome sounded a lot – make that a whole lot – like their contemporaries in Linkin Park, the album’s bracing textures and spirited delivery worked as a pretty effective shot over the bow of an industry busily churning out scores of similar-sounding pop/worship artists on what seemed like a weekly basis.

The enthusiasm generated by the freshman effort and the like-minded (and arguably superior) follow-on record, Innocence & Instinct, though, was largely turned to confusion, and in some cases, outright disdain, in the minds of many fans with the release of the far more polished, ballad-heavy Until We Have Faces in 2011. Admirably enough, while front man Michael Barnes and his cohorts could have taken the safe route and simply fallen back and retraced the grooves carved out by the much-beloved first two projects, they’ve opted for a far more daring path this time out, promising nothing less something entirely new and different with their latest undertaking.

For the most part, they make good on their word. On the one hand, “Hold Me Now” and “The Moment We Come Alive” see the pop-inclined ante inclinations of Faces and raise them a notch, sounding, for all intents and purposes (and against all probable odds), like they could have come from the latest MercyMe or Tenth Avenue North album. On the entirely opposite side of the spectrum, the almost unhinged “Damage” and likewise fiercely-delivered title song make early hits like “Let Go” and “Breathe Into Me” seem almost reserved by comparison. The group’s change of attitude is most obvious, though, on tracks like “Perfect Life,” “Same Disease” and “Die for You,” which leaven the group’s characteristic metal-meets-grunge aesthetic with welcome doses of syncopation and funk that help fashion the standout cuts into the group’s most engaging material to date.

Dyed-in-the-wool metal heads will probably view Panic’s ballads with the same contempt they heaped upon the better part of the Faces record. And, truth be told, the softer offerings on Panic, thanks to their sometimes overly generic character, sail wide of the mark as often as they hit it. In the same way, even on the most infectiously catchy tunes, the band's lyrics are often similarly undistinguished. Taken in the context of the release as a whole, though, the duff balladry is kept to a pleasantly bare minimum. And the groove-intensive nature of the mostly impressive heavier fare easily offsets the better portion of its word-related shortfalls.

While the latest effort probably won’t regain the love of those who still consider Silence and Instinct veritable templates of how the band should make all of its music from this point forward, it may well – and, in truth, should – earn the respect of those who appreciate the band’s willingness to shake up the established formula. More importantly, naysayers who have taken little shine to the group’s output up to this point may well find that the well-crafted fourth project is just different enough from its predecessors to finally win them over.


– Bert Gangl, The Phantom Tollbooth

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