Release the Panic
Since its 2006 debut, RED has not-so-quietly become one of the most influential acts in the Christian metal world. For its fourth album, however, the band decided it was time for a sonic shakeup. So RED sought the services of prolific producer Howard Benson, who's previously worked with Creed, P.O.D., Skillet, Flyleaf, My Chemical Romance, Daughtry and Seether, among many others.
Benson helped the group forge a more diverse sound—so much so that founding member and guitarist Anthony Armstrong told alternativeaddiction.com, "We want people to understand that we're still a rock band, [but] there are some poppier elements on this record that our fans aren't used to." Indeed. Mixed amid the band's signature drum loops and heavy guitars are some surprisingly different vibes, with a broad range of songs that reminded me at times of acts as diverse as The Fray, Three Days Grace, Nine Inch Nails, Slipknot and Linkin Park.
What hasn't changed, however, is that, in Armstrong's words, "[Our legacy is] more important to us than selling records. At the end of the day, we believe that anything that happens is what God's allowed to happen. If we're selling records, that's great. If we have a career, that's great too. The connections that we've made through the music and the stories that we've heard along with the struggles we've seen people get through, that's what made this whole thing special. However long we go, 10, 15, maybe 20 years, we want to be able to look back and say we made an impact on people."
"Perfect Life" rejects the temptation to project a problem-free image and admits to brokenness instead. Built on that same foundation, "Glass House" tells us that God sees right through our charades—which is a good thing. RED sings, "We deceive the world with lies we hide behind the smiles/We conceal a home of desperate hearts/ … We're broken/You alone, You can see right through us/This glass house we call home/You alone, You alone can take away the pain/You have shown, You can break right through/This glass house of our souls/Make us whole again, make us whole."
That song is followed by "The Moment We Come Alive," which finds hope for today's struggles in the belief that there's another, better world waiting: "We're living in a desperate time/Our only hope/Is believing there's another side/To all we've known/A truth hidden before our eyes/A vision of a life beyond our view/If only we could see it through."
Elsewhere, we hear prayer-like pleas for God's help and salvation amid feelings of desperation and isolation. "Hold me now till the fear is leaving," begs "Hold Me Now," "I am barely breathing/Crying out, these tired wings are falling/I need you to catch me." In similar territory, "So Far Away" finds a struggling saint recalling the early days of his faith with these lyrical thoughts: "Remember when You found me drowning?/Pulled me from the deepest end?/I promised I would never leave You/But now I'm drowning again/ … I'm so far away/ … I don't want to waste time/Living a half life/Are You listening?/Give it back to me").
"Damage" grapples with what it feels like when we think God's abandoned us, and we're living our lives outside His way. We hear, "All I do is damage, damage/It's destroying me/I'm human debris/I am crashed and bent/I'm a catastrophe/ … I am covered in shame/There is no one to blame/ … Do You hear me?/Will You answer me?/Are You even there?" But it ultimately hang on to this shred of hope: "I'm sick of the misery/Take this away/It was just a mistake/Save me."
"Same Disease" explores the fact that all of us are equally fallen and spiritually diseased apart from God ("I am toxic, I am so impure/I am dying inside/I'm dying for a cure/ … I'm immune to you/You are immune to me/We are both sick souls/With the same disease"). Near the end of the song, though, we hear a plea for deliverance when the band sings, "Infect me with Your love."
"Release the Panic," seems to counsel relinquishing anxiety even as we acknowledge the reality of our mortality. "Die for You" finds a faithful friend mirroring Christ's sacrifice by promising someone he'd be willing to do just that.
RED has never shied away from exploring serious subjects such as brokenness, sorrow and struggle. And its shift in musical tone has not at all led to a shift in lyrical intensity. An intensity that is sometimes (temporarily) overwhelming.
But by album's end, the band has reminded us over and over that no matter how toxic, lost, alone or shattered we may feel, God sees us and knows us. That He invites us to relinquish our isolating quest for perfection on our terms in exchange for the new life He offers. A life, we hear in "The Moment We Come Alive," that "ignites us forever."