Machine Head guitarist Logan Mader quit the band in 1998 following the recording of their album The More Things Change. . . (according to the official Machine Head Facebook Page he wrote the main riff of I Defy before his departure); he was replaced by Ahrue Luster. With the recording of The Burning Red, the band added new elements to its music, including a small amount of rapping vocals, a move which some believe to have been influenced by Luster himself. The album shows the band experimenting musically, using a disco drum line in "The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears", putting some rapping vocals in "Desire To Fire", and a layer of crooning vocals on "Silver". Citing the need for a few B-side tracks, producer Ross Robinson encouraged the band to record a smooth-sounding cover of the Police song "Message in a Bottle" after hearing Robb Flynn experiment with it during rehearsal. The song ended up on the album, not used as a B-side. Joel McIver said that anyone dismissing the album as nu metal has not listened to it, or is not a fan of the "atmospheric, impassioned groove-metal that Machine Head were focusing on at this stage. " Rick Anderson of AllMusic called the album "aggro-metal". Responding to critics, McClain stated the band was not trying to emulate popular trends; they simply "wanted to sound different". Flynn said that the band had been pigeonholed by those who complained that the two prior albums were too similar to each other, so the band had determined to reach for different influences on this project.