Redemption - Snowfall on judgement day 4/5

Reviewed: 11-20-09


1. Peel
2. Walls
3. Leviathan rising
4. Black and white world
5. Unformed
6. Keep breathing
7. Another day dies
8. What will you say
9. Fistful of sand
10. Love kills us all/Life in one day

If you've heard me say it once, you've heard me say it 1,000 times. I'm not a prog guy. I only need a couple of fingers to count the progressive metal acts that I enjoy. Redemption are on that super-short list. What the heck's so special about them? Let me tell you. For starters, their lead singer is Ray Alder of Fates Warning fame. Alder can't hit those 'No exit' or 'Parallels' type of stratospheric notes anymore, but with age comes wisdom. He coaxes more emotion out of that time and cigarette-ravaged voice today than most pristine-lunged youthful wailers ever could. Then there's the twin-guitar team of Nick Van Dyk and Bernie Versailles (Agent Steel). Not only are they great players, but they bring loads of grit, crunch, and sometimes even thrashy energy, so this isn't atmospheric, artsy-fartsy stuff by any stretch of the imagination. It's metal with a capital "M", and the chugging guitars reinforce that irreducible fact on every song. But the best thing about Redemption is Van Dyk's writing. Both lyrically and musically, he brilliantly captures the regret, the sadness, the melancholy of a careworn middle-aged American life, from wistful reflections on long-extinguished relationships to real-life parental fears and nightmares, which he intertwines with dark, powerful and stunningly melodic compositions.

'Snowfall on judgment day' is Redemption's 4th studio offering, and the Interwebs are humming with effusive praise touting it as a genre-defining, career-topping magnum opus. And it's good. Oh, it's very good. Take a track like "Black and white world", an 8-minute relationship song born of desperation with an urgent silver lining of hope. The music, the arrangements, the lyrics, and the vocal melodies are all impeccably crafted to carry the listener on a deeply emotional and personal journey. Then there's "Walls", a simpler, overtly catchy song sporting a tremendous chorus and a staggering performance from Alder singing about the barriers between 2 people and recognizing that the final stones in that wall were put there by the speaker himself. "Keep breathing" packs an intense emotional wallop, as it's about Van Dyk's daughter, Parker. Her eyes were the subject of a song called "Parker's eyes" on Redemption's 2nd CD, with lyrics about how her sweet, innocent eyes would never see the world pre-9/11, and so on. In a cruel twist of fate, Parker has now been diagnosed with a debilitating eye condition that will leave her vision at no better than 20/200 for the rest of her life. "Keep breathing" is a father's raw, emotionally overwrought response to this terrible burden. Make no mistake: These lyrics are therapy for Van Dyk, and read like open-book diaries on his innermost thoughts. It's that honesty that makes it so effective. You just can't fake the feelings embodied in these words and songs.

Having said all of that, I don't think 'Snowfall on judgment day' is as good as its predecessor, 'The origins of ruin'. There's nothing on here that slays me quite the way that songs like "Fall on you", "Memory" or "Used to be" from 'Origins' did. The pair of super-downtuned 7-string guitar songs ("Fistful of sand" and the unnecessarily political "Leviathan rising") don't really work for me. And the James LaBrie (Dream Theater) duet with Alder on "Another day dies" just feels like pandering to the Dream Theater crowd, as evidenced by the sticker on the front of the CD. Alder is twice the singer that LaBrie is, so the latter's involvement doesn't do anything from a creative standpoint, but appears to be there just to sell product. But these are small quibbles. Redemption have created another awe-inspiring work of metal art that cements their status as the greatest progressive metal band in the world today. If you're a prog fan, you should already own 'Snowfall on judgment day'. If you're like me, and could care less about progressive metal, you should still check out this CD if you crave expertly crafted, emotional heavy metal music straight from the heart, subcategories and genre labels be damned.




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