Last updated: 06/30/2014 11:18:02 PM
Passionate vocals. Gnashing guitars. A potent message.
These are the elements that make Red — both live and on their mighty debut, End of Silence—one of the most buzzed about bands to crash through the Christian rock world in recent memory.
“We’re passionate about our live show, but sometimes we get a little too excited,” says bassist Randy Armstrong. He’s just stating the facts. Or more to the point, the injury report. Head contusions. Emergency rooms. Stitches. And that was just their last tour. “Anthony swung his guitar around his body and smashed it into Michael's head causing the guitar to break and Michael to get seven stitches.”
It’s more than just good theater, though. There’s conviction fueling the onstage bonfire, an inferno that burns brightly on the band’s first proper album. “We’re intent on connecting with the crowd,” Armstrong explains. “We’re there for them. They’re not there for us.” One might disagree. After all, over 21,000 MySpace “friends” in just over a year online speak to a devoted following of fans. One that should only grow with the release of End of Silence.
It’s a long way from their days growing up in Pennsylvania playing to area youth groups, performing popular contemporary Christian music covers. “We were pretty sure we were breaking copyright laws,” says Randy Armstrong with a bit of a laugh. “It was fun. But for me personally, you grow out of pop music. I mean, you always like it, but something about somebody screaming in your face gets people pumped up and makes them want to listen. Something about that edge makes you feel a certain way.”
As contemporary Christian rock continues to push boundaries of what a band can say with its music, bands like Red are on the forefront. Having personally dealt with tragedy, regrets, addiction, and a litany of past mistakes, Red looks real issues right between the eyes on End of Silence and refuses to blink. Guitarist Jasen Rauch hopes his past difficulties can have a positive impact on listeners. He wants to remind everyone that, “No matter where you’ve been, the endgame of salvation is still the same.”
“People are hitting on subjects that are deeper and darker,” Armstrong says. “I think it’s just a sign of Christian music evolving. But at the end of the day, no matter what the message is wrapped in, the music is still about redemption. How people got out of their struggles and into their relationship with God.”
First single, “Breathe Into Me,” perfectly sums up this approach. Armed with angular, staccato riffs and Michael’s throat shredding yet melodic vocals, the song is a fierce lament about looking back and not liking what you see. “This is where I lose myself when I keep running away from you,” Michael’s shouts. His redemption comes in a chorus backed with mournful strings and a yearning, almost pleading cry for God to “breathe your life into me—I still need you.”
Such heavy messages risk being overpowered and singed by the churning, often brutal instrumentation, but it’s a risk the band was willing to take. “Rock bands aren’t always very well received in the Christian world,” says Armstrong. “But you look around at what bands are popular right now, and I think the kids are paying attention. It’s a fine line, but I think we walk it pretty well.”
Red’s duality—fiery, yet poignant—is best exemplified in the flip-sided duo of songs, “Already Over” and album closer “Already Over, Pt. 2.” The first version is led by a dark, lilting piano and relentless snare before exploding in pure metal fury. Lyrically it documents a downward spiral, a running or falling away from something good. “Pt. 2” is the antithesis. A stripped down happy ending of sorts, where the lost soul finally finds its way home.
After so much angst and upheaval, it’s a fitting final resting place for what should go down as one of the most powerful debut albums of the year.