Red is a band that could easily be shuffled away into the dark abyss of musical hell just by what others have labeled them. For those who try to stay away from Top 40 rock stations, words like modern post-grunge and Christian hard rock are definitely taboo. But somehow Red is a band that manages to overcome these hindrances despite numerous similarities to bands such as Linkin Park, Skillet and even the band we try not to mention here at JPP in hopes that they’ll just go away, Nickelback. But if you give this band, and their mundanely unmemorable name, a fighting chance; their spin on this head-scratchingly popular genre of music just might make you think that there’s hope after all in the modern rock scene. Red’s sophomore effort, Innocence & Instinct isn’t an album that is going to end up changing the genre but it is the very definition of a pleasant surprise.
Red is led by vocalist Michael Barnes whose voice isn’t strikingly original in any way, but his emotional out pour and accomplished range help carry each and every song. Though Barnes’ vocal is a big reason why Innocence & Instinct is a rather enjoyable listen, the real winner on the album is the band and their willingness to try new things. Though the core instrumental work in itself typically consists of mundane power chords and tired hard rock drum patterns, the use of strings and other rarely used instruments on similar albums along with an abundance of atypical song structures help create the much needed effect of surprise.
The album starts off with the contagious rocker, “Fight Inside” which is already making its rounds on rock radio. The song is one of the best examples of a track in the style of Linkin Park (minus the hip-hop), going from a subdued melodic vocal accompanied by a drum track on the verses before switching to crashing guitars and a rough and tumble vocal delivery during the chorus and bridge. For fans of a more “under the radar” style of music, you’ll probably appreciate that through the remainder of the album Red decisively decides to move into different directions while throwing a few curveballs and a couple welcomed surprises throughout the disc. For fans of bands similar to Red, the core ingredient of crunching guitars and sing along vocals will keep listeners satisfied. From the string filled “Death of Me” to the acoustic-based “Never Be the Same,” Red rarely falters on their promise.
The biggest surprises may be the unpredictably good cover of the Duran Duran song “Ordinary World” and the haunting piano filled album closer “Take It All Away” which more accurately represents the Paradise Lost style album art work. Lyrically the album is actually supposed to be a concept album of sorts that ties back to the interesting art work. The band is quoted as saying that the album is about the “duality of man” and that it draws from the influence of Dante’s Inferno. Though these influences rarely show themselves in the lyrics out right (at least from what I was able to gather), one thing that does show is that Barnes is no doubt an intelligent and affecting frontman which is a serious breath of fresh air for the genre.
Though Innocence & Instinct does fall into typical genre fare here and there, some of the songs seem pretty lazily constructed compared to the album’s highlights, the disc is one of the few in the genre that I can actually recommend. At only ten songs the album is a pretty solid listen from beginning to end too, any more tracks probably would have steered it into disaster. After it’s all said and done I think Innocence & Instinct maybe just what this style of music needs. And as I continue to listen to it – who knows, may be it can change the genre. I won’t be complaining if it does.
"Innocence & Instinct" is on sale February 10, 2009 from Song BMG.