I for an I: Reflecting on RED’s Innocence & Instinct

RED is currently playing shows to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the release of their sophomore album Innocence & Instinct. The 2009 release built on the foundation that the band had built with End of Silence, further establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with through heavy-hitters like “Death of Me,” “Fight Inside,” “Shadows,” and “Mystery of You.”

In honor of a decade of Innocence & Instinct, the Rock On Purpose team reflected on a few of their personal favorites from this milestone record.

“Fight Inside” (Jessica Walker)

“Fight Inside” was written by Rob Graves, Bernie Herms, Jason McArthur, and Jasen Rauch, and is the first track on Red’s second studio album. It was also released as the album’s first single.

Although it begins hauntingly soft, it’s not long before the powerful distortion of the guitars come in– the dominantly driving instrument that really calls for some head banging. The guitars drop out completely for the verses, enter again for the chorus, turn around, and then finally build throughout the bridge for a final hard-hitting chorus and even more powerful outro.

The dynamic contrast between sections of the song not only make it enjoyable to listen to, but also follow what is happening lyrically. Lead singer Michael Barnes told NewReleaseToday that this song is about the spiritual battle we all face, and references the Bible verse Romans 7:19, in which Paul writes “I don’t do the good thing I want to do, but I do the wrong thing that I don’t want to do.” Michael sings melodically through the majority of this song, but argues with himself (“It’s nothing / It’s everything“) in hushed, spoken tones entering the bridge, and lets loose some screams exiting the bridge and in the outro.

Another passage of Scripture that comes to mind when I listen to this song is Ephesians 6:12-13a: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God.”

Choruses 2 and 3 end with the powerful lyric “and without You the fight inside is breaking me again.” This line is crucial to the song because it holds the message of hope; the hope of a Savior, and the hope of not having to fight alone. This is a great song to start off a powerful album.

“Never Be the Same” (Matt Durlin)

I have always been a fan of rock artists willing to throw down an absolutely on point ballad. “Never Be The Same” is a rock ballad that delivers on every possible level.

Musically the song leads off with acoustic guitar before Michael Barnes lends smooth vocals. Thematically, the song is a love letter of sorts. According to an interview with NewReleaseToday, that the song is “told from the perspective of people who have a relationship with God… It’s an anthem about redemption, about thanking God for helping you and changing your life forever.”

“Never Be the Same” was a charting single on Billboard for the band, the second single from this iconic album.

“Shadows” (Mercy Wenger)

The opening riff of “Shadows” hits hard right out of the gate and dramatically sets the tone for the rest of the song. As the powerful guitar work settles into the quieter rhythm of the verses and bleeds into the emotive vocals of Michael Barnes, you are caught up into the greater story of not just this particular song but the album itself: Innocence and Instinct, the war waged inside the soul. In the lines of the song you hear both a confession of the darkness within and a plea for rescue, a tale deeply written into the human experience.

There’s a hate inside of me like some kind of master,” sings the chorus, the words etched onto the background of heavy guitar riffs and the powerful interplay of instrumentation and skilled lyrics characteristic of Red’s style. But the song is not merely a one note look at darkness. The song as a whole paints a picture of the tension between anger, despair, and hope: “I’m holding onto you / I’ll never let go / I need you with me as I enter the shadows.” The acknowledgement of the struggle to hold onto something higher weaves itself into the truth that there is something there to hold onto when facing the war inside.

“Shadows” is a collaboration between Red’s team and Benjamin Burnley, of Breaking Benjamin. It’s a standout track on the album both musically and lyrically and has remained an anthem of hope and the willpower to press on for those who hear it, standing the test of the past ten years with grace and impact.

“Take It All Away” (Mary Nikkel)

Although RED is best known for their rockers, they have an equally powerful history of including at least one piano and strings centered ballad on their records. For Innocence & Instinct, that song was “Take It All Away,” capping off the tracklist of the standard edition.

The song begins musically muted, restrained, with a trembling lament: “You’ve stripped me down, the layers fall like rain. It’s over now, just innocence and instinct still remain.”

The desolation set up by the opening lyrics is backed up by slowly picked strings and distorted keyboard. The vocals feel like they might have been sung through gritted teeth. The musical textures are signatures of producer Rob Graves and RED’s then-guitarist and frequent songwriter Jasen Rauch (now of Breaking Benjamin).

All the musical spaces in the song slowly begin to be filled in by full instrumentation, guitars and drums that chime in one by one. The song sings from a place where the visceral struggle of the soul has stripped everything away, a Job-like moment of questioning in the face of unbearable loss. The bridge builds to a declaration without resolution, guitars from Anthony Armstrong soaring around Michael Barnes’ keening vocals, mourning: “you take away.”

This song has become archetypal for RED’s best ballads in the decade since then: the restraint slow-building into heartrending emotional release.

You can stream the 10th anniversary re-issue of the album on Spotify and Apple Music. Find all current RED tour dates at thebandred.com/tour-dates.

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