King Crimson - Red
Island Records
Progressive Rock
5 songs (39:54)
Release year: 1974
King Crimson
Reviewed by Bar

Although there are countless perfectly valid reasons to argue King Crimson's status as an historically significant band, I think that one particular element of their legacy has always been inexplicably undersold. To be precise, I’ve often wondered why Robert Fripp, the band’s mastermind and only constant member, has not received substantially more credit for his role in developing the sound that we now associate with Heavy Metal. It was neither his goal nor his intention to assist in the creation of Metal, mind you, but nonetheless it seems obvious that he had a less than subtle influence on the early scene. By 1969, at a time when even Tony Iommi was still crafting riffs around an entirely blues-based framework, Fripp was already utilising low, non-standard tuning in combination with minor and power chords in an effort to explore dark, harsh atmospheres. With the benefit of retrospect, we can all appreciate the enormous effect this had on budding Metal guitarists.

Red was recorded by the band’s third line-up in 1974 and is considered by some - myself included - to be Fripp’s crowning achievement, surpassing even the prodigious In the Court of the Crimson King. Notably from a Metal point of view, it contains some of his most aurally hostile compositions (until at least the mid-90s when the first dual drum-kit line up manifested). The first of these compositions is the title track, an instrumental piece which opens the album with startling dissonance, in a guitar driven display of complexity and sonic brawn. While it may sound relatively placid today, let me assure you that in 1974 this sort of discordant song writing was rather a shock to many people’s ears. Fripp’s guitar sounds absolutely monstrous thanks to the open chords utilised, and the sheer violence of the syncopated drum and bass lines are executed masterfully by John Wetton and Bill Bruford, the finest rhythm section to ever play under the moniker of King Crimson. The unfamiliar scales and odd time signatures employed by Fripp here, in my opinion, laid down the basic foundations for Prog Metal acts such as Cynic and Tool.

Another of the hostile sounding compositions to which I referred is the stunning piece One More Red Nightmare. Although it has a less severe overall sound than Red, its influence on heavy music is also clear. The guitar riff that introduces the track and which represents its main theme is made of pure Heavy Metal, down tuned and gloomy as it is. Occasionally, Bill Bruford drums on an empty garbage can in order to create the most raw, distantly echoing percussion sound possible. It works a treat too, creating an incredibly cold and hazy atmosphere for a few moments before suddenly disappearing only to briefly reappear again later. The other sections of the song are perhaps less metallic, but they are no less intriguing. John Wetton’s silky vocals are sung over one of Fripp’s most unique and inventive riffs ever, set to a remarkable high pitched guitar tone and punctated by crisp hand claps. To top it all off, it features a slightly insane guest performance from genius saxaphonist Ian Mcdonald.

Up to this point I have concentrated on discussing the factors which make this album relevant for a Metal fan, but the truth is that the gentle beauty found elsewhere on the album has an equal part in making this album a classic. Providence is an exploratory instrumental that satisfies the listener’s yearning for the jazziness of Crimson’s past. Fallen Angel is an elegant rock song with a gorgeous, gentle melody and a mesmerising bass line, both of which stick to the brain like glue and refuse to be forgotten. Likewise, Starless is a ballad of exceptional beauty that eventually devolves over 12 minutes into unadulterated rock chaos before suddenly reprising its brilliant melodic theme - under much harsher circumstances - at the end.

This is a truly brilliant album from beginning to end, one with historical importance that cannot be underestimated, and one which, regardless, stands on its own as one of the finest pieces of rock based music ever recorded. An utter masterpiece.

Killing Songs :
Every second is classic, yes, even Providence!
Bar quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by King Crimson that we have reviewed:
King Crimson - Islands reviewed by Goat and quoted 65 / 100
King Crimson - Discipline reviewed by Crash and quoted 95 / 100
King Crimson - Lizard reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
King Crimson - In The Wake Of Poseidon reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 7 reviews click here
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