RED – Declaration (Album Review)

One of Hard Rock’s hidden gems over the past 20 years has been RED. With the 2006 debut End of Silence going gold, each of their six albums to follow not only hit Number 1 or 2 on U.S. Hard Rock charts, but also broke the Top 40 in the Billboard 200. On top of that, they have struck a slew of Top 40 hit singles on Mainstream Rock and Number 1 hits on Christian Rock charts. Obviously known, why in the world would the word ‘hidden’ be used to describe RED? Simple: because in spite of all their success, they are still relatively under the radar and debatably should be appreciated by a much larger audience.

Fortunately, RED has been humble, never taking anything for granted, nor has the band been driven by greed or egos in their time together. Instead they have focused on staying true to their creative instincts and have followed their own path. Speaking of which, after spending the last decade plus under the blanket of Essential, a division of Sony Records, RED opted to go independent for the release of their seventh studio album, Declaration.

An album initially scheduled for release on Friday, April 10th via RED ENTERTAINMENT / The Fuel Music, the band recently pulled the trigger to release it Friday, April 3rd. Free to do as they wish, the decision works well considering the world could use some emotional release with the widespread pandemic of COVID-19. That in mind, RED are truly firing on all cycles with Declaration, an album which sees a veteran band releasing any inhibitions, and in enough words, exploding.

Those who know RED are well aware of the heavy guitar tone of Anthony Armstrong and unmistakable legato vocals of Michael Barnes, all brought together with strings and thoughtful lyrics. Additionally, there is an underlying cinematic nature amidst RED’s music that unites the concepts of darkness, light, hope, and making the most of the life we are given. These aspects laid out, albums like the aforementioned End of Silence, 2011’s Until We Have Faces, 2015’s Of Beauty and Rage, and 2017’s Gone all touch on everything that make up RED. Now with Declaration they take all of these parts and turn them up a bit without coloring outside the lines or overdoing it.

What does this all mean? It means you get a RED album that is everything you would expect and more. It is explicitly heavy – specifically with the guitars and vocals – immensely emotional – again thanks to the no holds barred vocals – and extensively dramatic where needed. This is evident from the opening track “All For You,” the raw power of “Infidel,” and the heartbreaking reality of the recently released “The War We Made.” You see, RED are not in the business of waging political wars with their words, but more raising awareness of the humanity we all share together. That is the key word there, together, something rarely heard in a climate where we are consistently told about our differences. So, if you want to dive head first into this tragic reality, listen to “The War We Made.”

Then there are the less somber and more rageful moments, such as “Float” and “Only Fight,” perhaps some of the heaviest tracks ever recorded by RED. This onslaught of feeling is combated by equally compelling pieces such as “The Victim,” which utilizes various vocal styles, including an almost Beatles-esque moment prior to each bellowing chorus. More refined, but no less effective, “Sever” is haunting, powerful, and perhaps the perfect balance of everything Declaration is. Of course, there are the singles first unleashed over the past year, starting with the intense “Evening of Hate,” as well as resilient “From The Ashes,” book-ending this exploration in human emotion.

Back in an August 2019 interview with Cryptic Rock, co-founding member Bassist Randy Armstrong stated, “We just want fans to know we’re listening and this is going to be the RED-est RED record we’ve ever done since I can remember.” A fun play on words, he was not lying because this is as RED as RED has been. This album is about a band retaining who they are, who they were, and who they will be tomorrow. Never stale, always intense, and immensely striking, Cryptic Rock gives Declaration 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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