Sound — 6
Had RED began as just any other run-of-the-mill alternative metal band, their debut effort, "End of Silence," likely would have been written off as little more than Breaking Benjamin-sounding riffs over Linkin Park-styled vocals. But with RED's ace-in-the-hole style of incorporating full string ensembles (and not the canned kind, either) into their songs, "End of Silence" would show promising and refreshing potential for the new band, traveling as far as getting nominated for a Grammy. This potential would awaken in RED's follow-up album, "Innocence & Instinct," which further polished their style, and also got a Grammy nomination. Regardless of still not being able to take the award home, RED were growing a following at a rapid rate. Their third album, "Until We Have Faces," had RED dominating the Billboard charts, hitting #1 in five different album charts, and #2 in the Billboard 200 and Digital Albums charts, and their fourth album, "Release the Panic," would continue residence in the top ten of every chart it could rank in, earning the #1 spot in Christian albums and hard rock albums.
But though they were doing well in the charts, RED's later albums were showing a change not everyone was willing to embrace. With "Until We Have Faces" moving towards a more conventional alt-metal style concerned with heavy sound, "Release the Panic" would be the biggest change of sound in RED's catalog - opting to employ the more experienced producer Howard Benson for the album instead of Rob Graves (whom the band had worked with on every album prior), the band would step further away from their symphonic elements and substitute it with more industrial elements. While some enjoyed seeing RED explore with new sounds, others felt that the lack of symphonic elements was RED recklessly abandoning their signature style.
To those that felt the latter sentiment towards "Release the Panic," RED's fifth album, "Of Beauty and Rage," strives to be the foil of its predecessor. As well as being the lengthiest RED record yet (whereas "Release the Panic" was the shortest record of theirs), it brings back their tried-and-true producer Rob Graves, and, perhaps most importantly, dives back into RED's original style of alt-metal, incorporating a large amount of symphonic flavor. With all of these ingredients, "Of Beauty and Rage" results as the band's most symphonically-oriented album.
"Of Beauty and Rage" aspires to be more than just a return-to-form album, administering all of the compositional tricks and styles RED have shown throughout their catalog and more to sculpt an overarching concept throughout the album. As indicated by the dualistic album title, "Of Beauty and Rage" travels from a darker and heavier style of metal to a much more positive-sounding metal - "Shadow and Soul" is the perfect microcosm for the album, cycling between weighty metalcore riffs and uplifting neo-classical choruses, even going so far as to end on a delicate note with piano and frontman Michael Barnes singing in falsetto.
Musically, the album's concept is executed properly on paper, but the unfortunate truth is that the second half of the album ends up being much less captivating than the first half. Primarily, this is because RED administer their best compositional tricks in the heavier songs - from the "Celldweller meets Septicflesh" vibe of "Imposter," and the darkness of gothic melodies and strong industrial synths in "Falling Sky," to the ample layering of Barnes' clean vocals and screams in "Fight to Forget," and the meticulously-flickering high frequencies in the verses of "Yours Again" (think of Dillinger Escape Plan's "Dead as History"). After that, songs suffer from a lack of enthralling characteristics (see the bland final stretch of "Take Me Over," "The Ever" and "Part That's Holding On") or repetition in composition (the orchestral outro "Ascent" that reprises and extends that of the intro "Descent" feels superfluous, and frankly, the orchestral ballad "Of These Chains" does enough to shine exclusive focus on that orchestral gear; and "What You Keep Alive" is built similarly to that of earlier track "Shadow and Soul," especially in the topline) - though "Gravity Lies" saves face by purveying some of the most menacing riffs on the album. With a number of tracks coming off as filler, the biggest vice of "Of Beauty and Rage" is its excessive size.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrical matter of "Of Beauty and Rage" tells a story embedded in the dualism of finding the serenity within chaos, which, admitted by RED, is quite similar to the key theme of their second album, "Innocence & Instinct." The conceptual stories found in both of these albums are also quite parallel - both depicting a toxic relationship between the protagonist and an unnamed other - but by comparison, "Of Beauty and Rage" shows more sophistication in its progression and evocativeness in its articulation. In addition to the protagonist struggling with interpersonal issues, "Of Beauty and Rage" also elaborates on the protagonist's intrinsic struggle with himself, which sets the table for things in "Imposter."
As his significant other soon discovers the protagonist's dark side - much to his chagrin - in "Shadow and Soul" and "Darkest Part," the protagonist lashes out at his significant other (in "Fight To Forget"), leading to his heavy-hearted decision to leave on his own (in "Of These Chains"). Now lamenting his newfound lonesomeness, the protagonist is left to scorn his own demons for being the cause of said separation (in "What You Keep Alive" and "Gravity Lies"), but in the midst of his anger, he also makes sure to count his blessings of the memories he had towards the one that loved him and helped him as best they could (in "Take Me Over," "The Ever," and "Part That's Holding On").
Overall Impression — 7
"Of Beauty and Rage" is by far RED's most ambitious record to date - from the extravagant symphonic elements being brought back bigger than ever and showing further growth musically (whether in terms of harsh vocals or industrial metal components), to the strong concept that spans through the album. But all of these efforts unwittingly bring forth the glaring problem in "Of Beauty and Rage": its excess. As triumphant as the return of string ensembles may be, the album also wears out their welcome by the end, and with some tracks being shallow echoes of better-crafted predecessor tracks, the one thing missing that could've made "Of Beauty and Rage" a flawless album was a diligent editing session in order to make every moment on the album essential.