Red – Rated R (Album Review)

With inspiration coming over two decades ago, in the time since, Red has become one of the most energetic and intriguing bands in the modern Alternative Metal genre. Releasing their debut record End of Silence in 2006, they quickly grabbed the attention of many with powerful songs like “Breathe Into Me” and “Already Over.” Possessing a sound that gave a somewhat stagnant scene a joint, the band continued to grow with each album thereafter; standouts including 2011’s Until We Have Faces and 2015’s highly cinematic Of Beauty and Rage, just to name a few. Always having a flair for drama, in the form of their music of course, Red’s strengths lie within the rhythm section of co-founding twin brothers Anthony Armstrong on guitars and Randy Armstrong on bass, coupled with the distinguishable legato singing of Michael Barnes.

The core of Red for their duration, the three songwriting partners and friends now return in 2023 with their brand-new album Rated R. Announced a few months ago, and finally released on Friday, September 29th through RED ENTERTAINMENT / The Fuel Music, the album is a follow up to 2020’s impressive Declaration which featured such amazing tracks including “The War We Made.” That in mind, it should be obvious that Red has never been shy about discussing the decline of society and the humanities crisis that seems to keep expanding with each passing year like a snowball rolling down a steep mountain. This is evident in songs like 2011’s “Feed the Machine,” 2013’s “Perfect Life,” 2017’s “Step Inside, the Violence,” and yes, “The War We Made.” Just a sample of Red’s in-tune perspective of the surrounding world, Rated R also includes a mass of additional thoughtful material.

An album consisting of ten new songs, much like each of Red’s previous releases – with exception of End of Silence, Until We Have Faces, and Of Beauty and Rage – this seems to be a magic number for the band. Why? Because with ten tracks, there is all killer and no filler as they say; each song being potent, unique, and composed with care. This factor in mind, Red has also never been afraid to explore new sounds while maintaining their own signature tones. In this respect Rated R is no different from prior releases, but yet it is… because they experiment yet again.

A perfect example of such experimentation is heard from the start with the album’s lead single “Surrogates,” which is arguably heavier than anything they have done prior and features vocals from Barnes that are a rainbow of styles – from rapping to screaming to everything in between. One heck of an introduction to their latest music, in early September they surprised many once again with the double-sided single “Cold World” / “Minus It All.” “Cold World,” produced and co-written by Anthony Armstrong with Breaking Benjamin’s Keith Wallen, is an emotional song that features classic Red symphonic elements, but also observations that warn us of the dangerous trajectory the world is heading. Then “Minus It All” is a mix of razor sharp Red guitars and electronic elements that add up to another intense entry.

With these three songs introduced first, the remainder of Rated R continues along a trail of dark melodies, cinematic soundscapes, and lyrics that are striking. This is clear throughout, but standout moments include “The Suffering” with its mesmerizing lead-in, the captivating dips and dives of “Still Bleeding” both musically and vocally, plus an epic closer in “Emergency.” A few handpicked scenes in this tale are exclamatory of what Rated R is all about; enormous sound matched with real feelings of despair, anger, frustration, but hope… because without hope, we have nothing.

Overall, Red does not disappoint with Rated R and continues to show that they can still spark a fire in your soul.  Much like a good deal of their previous work, Rated R is, as mentioned, highly cinematic. Playing like classic movements, the vocal performance of Barnes only amplifies everything to the next level… think of it all as a cry for humankind. 

However, it is not all meant to be doom and gloom, because the key objective is to be a cathartic release, and raise a warning to stop, look, and listen to what is happening around us. It is easy to fall into the traps of the modern world with the bombardment of media of all types, the divisive persuasions, and the false, twisted ideals. Thankfully bands like Red remind us the most important thing is, we are alive, we should always think for ourselves, but yet broadly conscience, and think about others. An album you need to hear, the explicit rating is based on the content’s acute sense of being, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives Rated R 5 out of 5 stars.  

Red – Rated R / RED ENTERTAINMENT / The Fuel Music (2023)

Like the in-depth, diverse coverage of Cryptic Rock? Help us in support to keep the magazine going strong for years to come with a small donation.

No comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *