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Red - 'Innocence & Instinct' Review

Red Deliver Big, Loud Songs Without Getting Preachy

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


red innocence instinct

Red - 'Innocence & Instinct'

Photo courtesy Sony BMG.
Innocence & Instinct is a significant step up for Red after their so-so debut album, End of Silence. Though a Christian rock band, Red aren’t interested in preachy messages – instead, their songs possess a universal, humanistic quality filled with anger and longing. Innocence & Instinct straddles the worlds of hard rock, metal and mainstream rock, resulting in a strong album full of crisp, anthemic songs.

Mixing Genres

Because Red (led by frontman Michael Barnes) flirt with several different genres, it’s easy to accuse the band of watering down those styles’ most extreme tendencies. But on Innocence & Instinct, Red succeed in drawing from the strengths of their influences. While headbangers will complain that a song like “Shadows” merely dabbles in the intense riffs and screamo vocal style incorporated by hardcore metal bands, Red make it work by weaving those components together with a dramatic melody that softens the song’s harsh edge without compromising its spirit. As further proof that they’re a band that’s most interested in good tunes, they do a sincere cover of Duran Duran’s hit ballad “Ordinary World,” cranking up the volume but preserving the original’s melancholy tone. Rather than worrying about satisfying scenesters, Red are largely concerned with conveying emotion, which Innocence & Instinct has in abundance.

Strings Attached

It’s pretty common for rock bands of all stripes to utilize string sections – normally, it’s to add gravitas and grandeur to a romantic ballad. But on Innocence & Instinct, Red use strings to heighten the tension of some of their more intense songs. On “Confession,” Barnes sings about the inability to silence his darker impulses, and the guitars and strings build off each other to dramatize that inner struggle. Later on “Take It All Away,” the frosty strings work in conjunction with keyboards and then explosive guitars to mimic the track’s theme of escape. Aided again by producer Rob Graves, who worked on End of Silence, Innocence & Instinct is a far more intricately constructed album sonically, and its most noticeable improvement is its skill at articulating the songs’ nervous uncertainty. Before, Red seemed like a competent rock band without a lot of character. With Innocence & Instinct, we see more of that personality emerging.

Songs About Trying to Stay Sane

If Innocence & Instinct has an overriding theme, it’s the challenge of trying to stay sane in a maddening world. On the album, the theme is examined both within the individual and with those closest to us. “Never Be the Same” addresses a true love who for unspecified reasons has fallen away, but instead of sounding like a typical breakup song there’s a sense that the girlfriend has lost her way in life. Meanwhile, “Fight Inside” – another song that uses strings to strong effect – is all about Barnes as he grapples with his own demons, building to some unworldly hollering near the end of the track. Red may be religious, but these songs’ struggles don’t appear to be based on faith or angel-and-devil wickedness – more accurately, Innocence & Instinct deals with the average, everyday doubts of the ordinary world.

Red's 'Innocence & Instinct' - Bottom Line

Innocence & Instinct contains elements of metal and hard rock, but Red are largely operating in the arena of melodic, mainstream rock. Accentuated by expressive strings and accessible hooks, the album boldly wears its heart on its sleeve, offering empathetic songs about self-reliance in troubling times.

Best 'Innocence & Instinct' Tracks:

“Ordinary World” (Purchase/Download)
“Take It All Away” (Purchase/Download)
“Never Be the Same” (Purchase/Download)
“Fight Inside” (Purchase/Download)
“Shadows” (Purchase/Download)

Release date – February 10, 2009
Sony BMG

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