Once upon a time I went all in for the larger than life prog bombast of Fates Warning and later, Dream Theater. I admired the cerebral nature of both their works and the mind-blowing level of technical proficiency with which they delivered it. Over the years, Dream Theater lost their way and the ability to deliver memorable material, but Fates Warning modified and ultimately streamlined their sound to remain a reliable, engaging act 30-plus years into their career arc. Redemption, a sort of prog super group helmed by Fates Warning‘s Ray Alder and some Fates expats, has managed a successful run of albums by following Fates‘ blueprint and delivering songs first, with wankery added in a relatively unobtrusive way. The similarity between the two bands has become more apparent over time, and albums like Snowfall on Judgement Day and 2016s excellent The Art of Loss delivered the same kind of intelligent, classy music Fates Warning did on Theories of Flight. Long Night’s Journey into Day is the first Redemption album without Ray Alder on vocals, with Tom Englund of Evergrey stepping into his shoes. Despite this major lineup shift, it’s very much the same musical blueprint, with the same strong hand at song-smithing. Reliability and consistency never go out of style, you see.
As is their wont, the band crafts somewhat long-winded exposés into the human condition. Opener “Eyes You Dare Not Meet in Dreams,” hits with surprising force, as Englund’s vocals accompany heavy, aggressive riffing. This is a pissed off, Jimmies rustled version of Redemption, and the extra machismo works for them. The guitar-play is impressive as always, and the drumming by Chris Quirarte is both technical and all over the place, but most importantly, there’s a good song at the center. “Someone Else’s Problem” is another early highlight with a slick, satisfying blend of crunch and melody as Englund reflects back on a toxic relationship. The chorus is simple but effective, and the frequent breaks to allow guitarist Nick Van Dyk to rip off one smoking solo after another may trend towards overkill, but it all hangs together.
The heavier material works best, with “Impermanent” and “Little Men” standing out for their blend of heft and melodic sensibility. “Little Men” sounds like an Evergrey song on steroids, and Englund manages to keep that same melancholic mood despite the amped up guitar pyrotechnics. The band’s softer side is also well represented by moody balladry like “Indulge in Color” and the grippingly bleak “And Yet.” Englund made a career for himself doing these kinds of introspective regret-fests with Evergrey, and his delivery sells these songs like hobo wine on Skid Row.
For all the impressive ability on hand, the album isn’t without some missteps. The inclusion of a cover of U2‘s “New Year’s Day” near the album’s end is an odd choice. It’s such an iconic song, it feels totally out of place amid the prog-metal wankery and it pulls the listener out of the mood entirely. It’s also not that great of a cover and it should have been left as a bonus cut or scrapped entirely. A bigger issue is the length of some of the tracks. Naturally, prog lends itself to lengthy musical excursions, but some are too bloated for their own good. The closing title track is ten-and-a-half minutes, and while it’s a good song with a lot of interesting things going on musically, it could easily be seven or eight minutes. Part of the problem is that Redemption don’t write what I’d call adventurous prog. Instead they follow the likes of Royal Hunt, crafting fairly linear material then embellishing with technical flash. When songs in this style start to exceed seven minutes, they can get tiring. Add to that an hour-plus runtime and things can feel a bit overdone.
From a performance standpoint, everyone excels and impresses. While I was unsure how Englund would fit with the band’s style, he nails it and brings a new dimension to the material. He’s one of the most emotive vocalists in metal and he emotes all over this thing, but always with restraint and taste. Van Dyk’s guitar-work however is tasteful like an all you can eat buffet at a county fair. You get a lot of flash, sizzle, pop and shred, and even when you’re stuffed, it keeps right on coming. The man is prodigiously talented and while his wank level never reaches that of some other prog-metal acts, he certainly doesn’t hide his light under a bushel either. The rest of the bad is a wonder too, and new keyboardist, Vikram Shankar tears it up muchly, showing restraint only on every third song.
Long Night’s Journey is one hell of a classy prog album. Not as great as The Art of Loss, but still very enjoyable. I’m loathe to use words like “mature” on a heavy metal blog, but this certainly qualifies. A prog-metal super group earning its “super” once again.