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King Crimson - Red review


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Band: King Crimson
Album: Red
Release date: November 1974

01. Red
02. Fallen Angel
03. One More Red Nightmare
04. Providence
05. Starless
06. Red [trio version] [40th Anniversary Series bonus]
07. Fallen Angel [trio version] [40th Anniversary Series bonus]
08. Providence [live] [40th Anniversary Series bonus]

[40th Anniversary Series DVD-A]
01. Red
02. Fallen Angel
03. One More Red Nightmare
04. Providence
05. Starless
06. Red [trio version]
07. Fallen Angel [trio version]
08. Providence [live]
09. A Voyage To The Centre Of The Cosmos

+ Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part II [video]
+ Lament [video]
+ The Night Watch [video]
+ Starless [video]

King Crimson had a mightily prolific career during their first five years, but on Red is where the magic really happened. Yes, this is the apex of King Crimson’s career and, by induction, the pinnacle of progressive metal. Let’s dive into one of the most excellent, unfuckwithable, timeless, and influential metal albums of all time.

“But, Netzach, can you also back up all these claims?” you might ask. “Of course I can,” I would respond, “didn’t you see the rating?” As I am listening to the opening riff of “Red” for the seventy-eleventh time, I am within moments entirely enthralled by the iconic 7/4-time riff, the massive, interlocking drums, and the wildly precise performance. You don’t have to listen to more than a few seconds of opener “Red” to understand where some of your favourite progressive rock and metal bands come from. Tool like to maintain in interviews that they stole most of their stuff from King Crimson. Kurt Cobain used to talk about Red’s influence on Nirvana, grunge, and by extension, the entire alternative scene. The riff has been plagiarised countless times. Oh, just trust me when I say that the list of artists, scenes, and entire musical styles influenced by this particular album goes on for… quite a while.

“But, Netzach, why should I listen to this?” you might ask. “Well, because you’re an idiot otherwise,” I would respond. The title track is a classic; “Red” solidified the archetypal prog metal riff (note that this was released in 1974). What makes Red such a magical album beside its impeccable songwriting, flawless performance, and invaluable influence on prog, however, is the way the track list flows perfectly through the five tracks. From the crushingly heavy opener, it takes a breather with the jazzy symphonic anthem “Fallen Angel”, which ends on a heavy and dark note. The album then increases again in intensity, the main riff of “One More Red Nightmare” just barely hinting at the endless possibilities available with Red’s toolbox, with its complex riffs and saxophone magnificence.

We’re halfway through, and have already had progressive, symphonic, grunge, fusion, and a handful of other (later to be coined) rock and metal styles, and another handful of genres yet to be crystallised. On the controversial live improv piece “Providence”, King Crimson embrace their free jazz urges, and provide an oasis of jazz-infused mystery and keyboard-tinged melancholy that escalates into a tension you could slice only with a diamond-teethed blade. At this point in King Crimson’s history, nobody in the band got along. Robert Fripp ate his meals separate from the band, and would later disband the group, proclaiming they were never to return. They did, of course, in the 80s incarnation of King Crimson, with Discipline, in a very different style.

Just when an uninitiated pleb might start to think “this is going on forever”, aforementioned pleb should stop for a while and consider what is being played, and how god-damn old it is. That’s right, you’re listening to rock and jazz instruments played like an orchestra, sweeping forth textures, emotions… Had Red been released today, we would have called “Providence” post-rock, “Red” progressive metal, and “Fallen Angel” symphonic rock.

The crowning jewel is the closing track “Starless”. It is not only King Crimson’s best song; it is the best progressive rock song there ever was, and if you’d put a gun to my face (please refrain) and ask me what the single best song ever written in the history of music was… I’d answer, “Starless”. Opening with a mellow jazz section, with vulnerable singing and mournful saxophone that throws back to “Fallen Angel”, it soon evolves into a section of palpable tension. Robert Fripp plucks his guitar in polyrhythmic staccatos over a grungy bass line, tension building, building, building… until the saxophone blasts off into a genius, wild solo, the drums pummel all over the place, and a bassline in 13/8-time carries Red to the closing moments.

It has to be heard to be believed. The way the entire album comes together in this final section is one of the finest moment in music, and is a true work of art.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 10
Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Production: 10

Written on 25.12.2021 by 100% objective opinions.


Comments: 5   Visited by: 35 users
25.12.2021 - 14:09
Rating: 10
Among the least controversial perfect 10s out there.
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
26.12.2021 - 01:41
Rating: 10

Couldn't agree more, awesome review.

I just love this album and IMHO Starless is probably the finest piece of music I've ever heard.
26.12.2021 - 20:48
The Nice Guy
Great review This is a timeless classic! Not heard it in ages, now after reading your review I will have to dig it out.
29.12.2021 - 18:51
Rating: 10

This review makes me want to go listen right now. Agree on all counts
29.12.2021 - 23:36
Rating: 10
I'm glad you all agree. I'd honestly be seriously concerned otherwise.

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