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Quality prog metal that has a statement to make
on October 27, 2003
While the name Redemption is pretty new in the prog metal genre, the people who perform on the project are not. On the contrary, they remind me of an all-star line-up like Arjen Lucassen's Ayreon. Redemption is guitarist Nick van Dyk's offering. After co-writing songs on Fates Warning vocalist Ray Alder's Engine album, he finally started work on putting this band together. He seems to have benefitted a lot from having worked with Alder, as we see other Fates Warning members on the CD as well. Prog metal drum god Mark Zonder plays on one song ("As I Lay Dying") and Joey Vera appears as the sound engineer of the album. Alder sings lead vocals on the second track and does back-up on a few others. He also co-produced the album with Nick. The notable line-up also features Symphony X drummer Jason Rullo, and as usual he does a great job. Bernie Versailles from Agent Steel, Fates Warning, and Engine plays lead guitars on the record. He must be another acquintance of Nick's from the Engine project. Behind the mic we have the amazing vocalist Rick Mythiasin formerly of Steel Prophet; now in New Eden and Taraxacum.
As for Nick van Dyk, he co-produces the album, he plays bass, rhythm guitars, keyboards, and he is the main songwriter. A very multi-dimensional musician to say the least.
Michael Romeo from Symphony X appears in the liner notes as a guest musician who helped Nick with the orchestration and keyboard programming, and it shows. The dark cover art has the Travis Smith trademark all over it, and it's a very fitting art as far as I am concerned.
Sensory Records describes Redemption's music as dark prog metal with a sound that reflects a combination of Evergrey, Savatage, Kansas, Iron Maiden, and of course Fates Warning. While I do not necessarily think the album sounds like any of those band in particular save Fates Warning, I do relate to the dark feel of Evergrey, to Sava's amazing piano and keyboard textures, to Maiden's beautiful lead guitar work, to Kansas' proggy roots and of course Fates' sublime song structures. It is hard to liken the music on this disc to any of these bands, but I guess it would be safe to say that Redemption offers quality American prog metal with a unique touch. They seamlessly blend complexity and melody with two independent semi-concepts, one based on the Stephen King novel titled Desperation. The first four songs focus on it. Needles to say the songs all have 'redemption' as the underlying theme. "Nocturnal" fills the gap between the two concepts also giving us a few minutes to enjoy the band's work in free form. It is a given that most prog projects evolve around conceptually based stories, but sometimes, as in "Nocturnal" and "As I Lay Dying", it is great to experience the band's other aspects musically and lyrically. These songs are also very interesting in the way that they explore the nature of human relationships, faith, regret and similar themes. The last song "Something Wicked This Way Comes" clocks in at over 25 minutes with its epic feel. The writing is amazing, as are Rick's vocals, save for the somewhat disappointing mix.
Rick Mythiasin is an amazing singer. Those of you who have heard his work with Steel Prophet (Messiah is a great starting point if you're unfamiliar with them) should know what I'm talking about, and I feel had it not been for the unfortunate mix, this would have been his best vocal performance to date. It's a shame that his voice is drowned by the sometimes too heavy rhythm guitars and bass by Nick. Also his vocals seem to be mixed a bit too far back for my liking. It could also be the drastic change in his singing, since Rick isn't originally a prog metal vocalist. He is a high pitched wailer going from soaring screams to fiery vocal deliveries. On this CD he has toned it down to a more melodic, mid-range tone that makes him sound quite different. He prefers to stay within this range during most of the album, although we do get to hear a few of his godly screams where he totolly rules the songs. He has a great combination of melody and power in his voice and I absolutely love it. [Rick left the band shortly after recording his parts on it and was replaced by Magnitude 9 singer Corey Brown, who is perhaps a more fitting figure to the band.] Except the vocals, the production is really crip and clear with a very precise feel. The bass work, drums and rhythm guitars are thick and very full. The keys are placed a bit in the back, and that's how it should have been to my ears.
To sum it up, the debut Redemption is an album that has numerous textures. It's a hybrid of many of the elements that I love to hear in prog metal. It is certainly quality songwriting and well crafted musicianship and like many other prog discs it may take some time to 'hit' you in the face. After all, don't most prog metal classics require repeated listens to open up to you? And Redemption is definitely no exception.