Redemption_The Art of LossOver my life as a metal fan I’ve had my share of issues with proggy musical endeavors. Though there was a time when I loved everything Dream Theater did, they eventually drifted into a grey purgatory of wanking and showboatery which left those of us who appreciated actual songs out in the cold. I loved early Fates Warning even more dearly, but they too took their progressive tendencies too far afield for my liking, losing their traditional metal charm entirely. Somehow, Redemption managed to avoid alienating my affections over their career though they embody the exact same tendencies as the aforementioned acts and also bear the unspeakable stigma of being a “supergroup” (don’t get me started on those things).

Led by Fates Warning frontman Ray Alder, the band released a series of accessible and memorable platters like The Origin of Ruin and Snowfall on Judgment Day and though they can wank with the best of them, they usually make sure there’s a song worthy of being wanked upon first. Neat touch that, and one I highly appreciate. I thought 2011s This Mortal Coil was solid but less impressive than earlier works, and was hoping for a bounce back with The Art of Loss. When I heard the album would be 75 minutes, I had serious concerns. After spending a lot of time with it though, I’m happy to report those concerns have mostly abated. Mostly.

Fans of the band will be pleased how little has changed with the Redemption sound. It’s still the same dark, somewhat depressive style of prog-rock and the opening title track is the type of song they’ve always excelled at – straight-forward and memorable with the frills and proggy flair ups restrained and penned into listener-friendly safe areas. Though there are tempo shifts aplenty and reams of interesting playing within, the song is simple in design. Ray Alder’s vocals guide the listener along to a catchy chorus and the song never gets bogged down by 10 minute guitar-keyboard-hurdy gurdy duels. Things get better and more melancholy on “Slouching Toward Bethleham” where the emotions start to flow like the wine adorning the awful cover. Call it downer-prog or doom-wank but it’s quite a grim little tune with many references to things falling apart and the center being unable to hold. Throughout the 8 minutes, Alder’s plaintive vocals are juxtaposed with crunchy riffing and dramatic keys with potent effect.

The same glum mood is captured on “Damaged” (with a really poignant chorus) and “Hope Dies Last” (more energetic but still bleak). The latter is a testament to the high-quality writing as a 10 minute song flies by in a flash because it’s so engaging and memorable. “Thirty Silver” rocks one of the album’s best and most bitter choruses and by now you realize someone in the band must have been in a really dark place when penning the lyrics because damn if they’re not soul-sick.

Redemption_2016

The album’s .44 magnum opus is the 22 minute closer “At Day’s End” and coming as it does at the conclusion of some 52 minutes of music, it’s set up to fail due to listening fatigue and inevitably lessened attention spans. And that’s the band shooting themselves in their collective foot because the song is really good and loaded with memorable, emotional playing (especially around the 7:30 mark). That said, it’s not the album highlight you’d hope for and it’s far too long, especially on such an already long-winded album.

While there are no bad songs, “The Center of Fire” is weaker than its neighbors, and the cover of The Who‘s “Love Reign o’er Me” seems superfluous, though it does benefit from a raging vocal performance by John Bush (Armored Saint, ex-Anthrax). If you drop these songs off, you get down to a (still unreasonable) 63 minutes and avoid a public flaunting of the Metallica-itis plaguing the band’s current roster.

Musically you know this stuff will be beyond reproach. Ray Alder was born to sing these kinds of songs and like Dr. Fisting, I think his voice has grown more and more interesting over the years as he lost those stratospheric highs heard on his Fates Warning debut. Nowadays his tenor sounds lived in, a bit rough at times and very human, and it totally benefits the introspective material. He’s backed by some highly impressive guitar-work by Nick Van Dyk and guests Chris Poland, Marty Friedman and Chris Broderick, all of whom know a thing or two about chops. Greg Hosharian lays down some quality keyboards and Chris Quirarte turns in a pretty remarkable performance behind the kit as well. It’s a supergroup and sounds like it, especially with a warm, non-smashed production that lets the technicality be appreciated in full.

The Art of Loss is very good album with really catchy songs, and it’s a major showcase for the band’s talent. Notice which got listed first? That’s why this works despite being way too long and lacking in restraint. Knock off 25 minutes and it’s a contender for Album o’ the Year. As it is, it’ll be one of the year’s best prog releases and one you can keep returning to because of the plethora of interesting music. Check it out.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 278 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: redemptionweb.comfacebook.com/redemptionband
Releases Worldwide: February 26th, 2016

 

 

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  • Tom Hardy

    Whoa, Javier Bardem from No Country Of Hold Men does vocals now? Only that kind of poor singing can compliment the sort of humdrum song writing in the preview track.

  • savafreak

    Them along with Fates Warning and Symphony X are currently the best and most consistent American Prog Metal bands out there, never disappoint, always innovative with catchy songs, and played with high level of musicianship and and technicality without straying away from the song structures. A “warm” band

  • Goldicot

    Is it just me, or do the vocals not sound right over top of some of the riffing? As if they’re microtonal, or some shit.

    • Bart the Repairman

      I guess they’re just natural, not perfect-tuned. But something’s wrong with them… I’d say that performance is lifeless. Ray Alder sounds tired here. Vocals on ‘Snowfall…’ were much more passionate.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      I kinda felt the same way from listening to that song. Just didn’t seem right at all.

    • Here’s Johnny

      Its almost Mustaine like, apart from this guy can really sing obv. Same kind of talking/singing style over the riffs.

      Weirdly though, the vocals being a bit off makes this album sound a bit darker. It suits.

      • Look at all this agreement! The planets have aligned.

  • METAL OTTER

    Yet to master the art of losing filler. Also, warning: reviewer’s comment in last paragraph effectively states that the album ends 25 minutes too late, which may trigger MLTR flashbacks for sensitive readers. Suggest amending to “Knock off 1,500 seconds and it’s a contender for Album o’ the Year.”

  • Scourge

    I tried to give this a chance a few days ago, but I found the vocals very low energy with bad melodic choices for the actual song melody and the chorus on the first track really not good. Not my thing. Also, it seemed too commercial or AOR or something…

  • Shawn

    “doom-wank” I had to laugh.

  • Name’s Dalton

    “…though they can wank with the best of them, they usually make sure there’s a song worthy of being wanked upon first.”

    this had me laughing out loud.

    Also, that cover art is terrible.

    • RuySan

      I kind of like the cover art, even though it’s kind of a waste since i love wine.

    • [not a Dr]

      Quadruple dutch rider. That sums up all the wanking.

  • HMG

    Perfect!

  • Kronos

    Is anyone else really bothered by the fact that one of the fragments on the cover is obviously not from that wine glass?

    • Thou needith a hobby.

      • Kronos

        Does this not count?

    • Alex Benedict

      now that it’s been pointed out I’m bothered by it

    • Lars Barres

      Maybe it’s symbolic of something? I dunno, but the cover is so bleh I figure it’s gotta be symbolic of… something?

      • [not a Dr]

        The whole is less than the sum of its parts?

  • Lars Barres

    Should be “beyond reproach”, SD. Not trying to be a dick, and it’s probably just a mistake, but since I didn’t know the real meaning of “crescendo” ’til I heard about it here, I reckon I’ll risk being a dink and point that out.

    • That was a typo. You’re still a dink though.

  • UfoUfo

    Ray Alder is the main reason I even check out this band in the first place and his vocal performance on past records are amongst the best in his career. Nick doing production feels like he could have done more with Ray’s tracks instead of just cutting and pasting. And I know its got to me Nick holding things down because even on Alder’s non-Fates Warning and Redemption projects like Engine, he shines with stellar work.

    Since the album was a tribute to Bernie, they could have gone a lot more all-in with the writing. Snowfall on Judgement Day is up there with their best work. The use of Megadeth guitarists is kind of whack and I don’t know what to make of it.

  • John Molloy

    Slouching Towards Bethlehem is incredible. Lifted most of the lyrics from a W.B. Yeats poem, but it works well and is a nice hat tip to the literary genius. Ray Alder’s voice takes getting used to but, as stated, works well with the aura of the band. If he had a floral James LaBrie sound I would like it less.