Redemption - The origins of ruin 4.5/5

Reviewed: 7-13-07


1. The suffocating silence
2. Bleed me dry
3. The death of faith & reason
4. Memory
5. The origins of ruin
6. Man of glass
7. Blind my eyes
8. Used to be
9. Fall on you
10. Precious things
11. Love to love

Let's get something out of the way up front: I am not a prog guy. Any who have read my reviews on this site over the last couple of years can attest that I like my metal fast, heavy, and unwaveringly traditional. Give me bullets and blades, denim and leather, a riff that's mean, torrents of double-bass drums and gang-shouted choruses. Extensive use of keyboards is a major downer for me, and the busy, self-indulgent, jazzy arrangements that characterize much prog metal from the Dream Theater school never fail to send me scrambling for the skip button. Having exposed this personal bias, it is perhaps surprising that there are 2 prog acts whose CDs I purchase religiously: Australia's Vanishing Point and America's own Redemption. The former exception is readily justified by my friendship with the Vanishing Point guys (another bias rears its head) during various European rendezvouses over the years. But the latter is a puzzler. Unlike some, I do not frequent the message boards where bandleader/guitarist/writer Nick Van Dyk holds court from time to time. I've never met Nick, though I've seen his band perform at ProgPower (and will do so again this October) and I attended the same alma mater where he received his MBA, albeit for 2 different degrees and probably at different times, so our paths never crossed on the banks of the Charles River.

So what is it about Redemption that would make them appeal to a crusty, old-school rivethead? The guitars, for starters. Unlike many in this genre, Van Dyk and his partner in crime, Agent Steele axemaster Bernie Versailles, know the value of a killer, thrashy riff and a Megadeth-styled harmony, and do not hesitate to sprinkle them throughout the material. The vocals, for another. Although my favorite Fates Warning period is unquestionably the John Arch era, I've always felt that Ray Alder is an exceptionally talented and emotive singer. His performance on these last 2 Redemption CDs is simply magnificent. And then there are the lyrics. Van Dyk's texts are emotional, intensely personal, introspective and have remarkable depth that resonates with any citizen of this planet, particularly those of us on the graying side of 30. Take, for example, "Fall on you", an ode to Van Dyk's children, wherein he warns them of all the evil that can befall them in this world. Rain, darkness and hate can and likely will fall on them, but the last stanza brings out a beautiful silver lining in the form of his abiding belief that there is goodness in the world, that they will find happiness, and that peace will fall on them. This is stirring, potent stuff that connects somewhere deep under the gruff, calloused exterior of us all.

But the best thing about Redemption, especially on this new CD, is simply the songs. A good song is a good song, whether it's power metal, true metal, prog metal, or ethnic bluegrass, and Van Dyk has written a tremendous batch of songs here. There is considerable variety of textures and moods, from the downtuned, Nevermore-type riffing in "The death of faith and reason" to the calm piano ballad "The origins of ruin", but for the most part the songs on display here are lengthy workouts in the 6 to 9-minute range packed with interesting twists and turns, astounding musicianship and great hooks. Unlike many prog acts, who seem to use the song as an excuse to show off the band's chops, Redemption elevate the song above all else. These are catchy, memorable songs that may not stick immediately, but if you give them a chance they will burrow into your head and remain lodged there forever. I count at least 5 bona fide classics: "The suffocating silence", "Bleed me dry", "Memory", "Used to be", and "Fall on you".

Despite this effusive praise, there are certainly parts that will cause coarse musical neanderthals like myself to grit our teeth. The keyboard runs are sometimes overbearing, and the jammy parts definitely wear out their welcome from time to time. Progheads will almost certainly view these aspects of 'The origins of ruin' as ranking among its most appealing features. In fact, it's difficult to imagine any big-time progger not going absolutely bonkers over this CD. But the point of this review is that Redemption's appeal is not limited to that narrow niche. Fans of all styles of metal should find something to like here, especially those who admire Alder's work with Fates Warning, those who appreciate great guitar-playing (with regard to riffs, harmonies and solos), and those who are of a certain age and a certain mood to appreciate Van Dyk's lyrical gift. Or maybe I'm just nuts. That's always a possibility, too.




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