20 November 2009

CD REVIEW: Redemption, Snowfall on Judgment Day (I/O, 2009)

“ I used to see in colour, now it’s only black and white…”

Oh, those words have a tendency to hit home, depending on how my emotional weather is faring.

As time goes on, I find myself drifting further and further away from progressive metal as a style of music that gets a lot of play. Oh, I still enjoy it well enough, and I won’t shy away from a good prog metal album, but I’ve found that most of that enjoyment comes from bands that tend to lie on the outskirts of that genre…bands like Opeth, Enslaved, Agalloch, groups that could just as easily be described as something other than prog. The more traditional progressive metal bands…and by that I mean bands that seem to draw their sound from groups like Fates Warning or Dream Theater, seem to leave me cold more often than not. I can appreciate the skill, the intricacy, the intent, but in the end, it seems more often than not to be a case of ‘been there, done that.’

Redemption is a band featuring Ray Adler on vocals. He’s probably best known for being the long time vocalist in Fates Warning. On Snowfall on Judgment Day, the band’s fifth full length release (4 studio/1 live), he is joined by founder Nick Van Dyk (guitar, keys), Bernie Versailles (lead guitar), Sean Andrews (bass) Greg Hosharian (keys) and Chris Quirarte (drums). Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie even guests on one track (“Another Day Dies”). And in mentioning Fates Warning and Dream Theater, I am hoping I won’t have to do so again in this mini review, because this release deserves to stand on its own merits without being confined in such a restraining genre. There’s some great melodic work here, and the guys write some tight, compelling material. “Black and White World,” quoted above, is one of those tracks…eight minutes long, chock full of impassioned Adler vocals, some excellent guitar/keyboard interplay (especially in the climactic ending moments) and careful orchestration and arrangement.

Other songs worthy of note are “Unformed,” “Another Day Dies” (yes, featuring LaBrie in some of his strongest singing I have heard in yonks) and the nearly 11-minute long epic closer “Love Kills Us All / Life in One Day.” I love the piano bit that reminds so much of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, and the bursts of guitar that shatter the quiet…the use of contrast is so perfect here that it should be used as a textbook example of how dynamics work.

Unlike more modern…oh, I’m going to say it…Dream Theater, Redemption’s material seems designed to suit the song…songs flow naturally, sections blend well, and solos aren’t the focal point. Van Dyk and Versailles are a great tandem team of guitarists, playing off each other well, and van Dyk’s rhythm work is punchy and tight. Hosharian is a very good keyboardist…yes, he does tend to use some pretty standard keyboard sounds, but they fit the songs well and never seem out of place or selected for the sheer novelty of their sounds. Andrews and Quirarte are also worthy of note as a very tight rhythm section; I do wish Andrews’ bass was a little more apparent in the mix, but these two guys are the motor that drive these tracks.

I may find myself moving away from progressive metal as a whole, but there are occasional albums that perk my ears up just enough to attract attention. Snowfall on Judgment Day, while being as traditional a prog metal album as can be, is one of those releases. With an emphasis on songs rather than pyrotechnics, this release is worth more than just a passing listen.

Track Listing:

"Peel" - 6:31

"Walls" - 6:46

"Leviathan Rising" - 6:41

"Black and White World" - 8:03

"Unformed" - 6:29

"Keep Breathing" - 7:36

"Another Day Dies" feat. James LaBrie - 5:14

"What Will You Say" - 5:20

"Fistful of Sand" - 6:35

"Love Kills Us All / Life in One Day" - 10:59


Ray Alder - Vocals

Bernie Versailles - Lead Guitar

Nick van Dyk - Lead and Rhythm Guitars, Keyboards

Sean Andrews - Bass

Chris Quirarte - Drum

No comments: