Title: Until We Have Faces
Red typically gets associated with anger in the entries on color symbolism, so it's not surprising that Until We Have Faces, the third album from modern rock band Red, is louder and more intense in its composition than the previous two offerings from the Dove Award-winning rockers.
There's a lot of sound and fury, but what Faces seems most to signify is not so much a new direction in modern rock, but a louder and more Epic one. That's Epic with a capital E. Cue the strings, choral outros, and echoed programmed drum loops. This make Faces at times sound like a trailer for the latest must-have first-person shooter video game. Following this recipe, tracks like "Let it Burn" sizzle. Michael Barnes possesses the requisite tortured-soul lead voice and wrings every ounce of sincerity from fairly standard themes and lyrics.
Red is a new player in an old game, so if you've heard Skillet, Staind, Nickelback, Creed, or Kutless, you know where this is heading. A few deviations exist, some harder, others more anthemic. "Feed the Machine" is a righteous ear-bleeder that hits all the hard rock notes, with Barnes growling "give up, give up, and feed the machine" on the chorus. Lead single "Faceless" is equally earnest and loud. Its chorus, while delivered with plenty of zest, feels a bit cliché:"A part of me is dead/need you to live again." Red does hit its stride in spots, as on "Lie to Me (Denial)" or "Who We Are," both modern rock anthems with sublime hooks. When Red is on, it's hard to ignore the synergy of its four parts.
Despite its rock snarl, Faces comes across polished for a band that so earnestly tries to turn it up to 11. The mix is great, and with the exception of a few dirtier moments, producer Rob Graves and engineer Ben Grosse file most of the rough edges down for a half-dozen radio-ready hits. "Not Alone" and "Hymn for the Missing" ditch the angry delivery for a more upbeat message. Its shortcomings in originality shouldn't be seen as dismissive. Red is needed in an industry littered with the graves of bands—heck, whole labels—which possessed top-notch rock chops and a sincere thoughtfulness needed by a generation of youth groupies. Folks my age had Plankeye and The Prayer Chain; now, it's Red's turn, and Faces shows this group making the most of it.
**This review first published on February 1, 2011.