Christian rockers RED have just released their fourth studio album, “Release The Panic,” on Essential Records. Consisting of lead vocalist Michael Barnes, guitarist Anthony Armstrong, his twin brother Randy Armstrong on bass, and drummer Joe Rickard, RED has made quite the splash on the hard rock and metal scene. Known for their staggering guitar riffs, superior melodies, and orchestral strings, they have established a huge fan base through relentless touring. Their three prior albums have earned them two Grammy nominations and top ten spots on both Christian and mainstream rock charts. For this record, they have teamed up with producer Howard Benson to take things in a new direction.
The album starts off with a completely different sound on “As You Go,” a pop style song with softer vocals and lush electronic layerings. My first impression was that it reminded me of Duran, Duran which is a great band but not quite what I was expecting from RED. The next track I listened to was “Damage.” It was fierce with a pummeling guitar attack and harsh screaming vocals with a bit of electronica mixed in. The first single “Perfect Life” is another heavy hitter with a great melody and “Same Disease” has a nice riff but stays radio friendly. Closing the record is another pop style song “So Far Away” and the piano driven “The Moment We Come Alive.” The deluxe version of the record includes two additional tracks as well as three remixes of prior RED material, including an interesting acoustic/electronic mix of “Breathe Into Me” from their first album. The band sounds in top form with Michael Barnes delivering a true standout vocal performance. He is absolutely outstanding throughout the record whether he is screaming in rage or softly whispering.
“Release The Panic” becomes almost a tale of two different bands. On the one hand, you have the pop-metal version of the band with radio friendly hits and on the other, you have the grittier, edgier version of the band with fierce rock tracks that will have you banging your head. Both styles sound great, but which one is the true RED? I guess we’ll have to wait until the next album to find out for sure.