Album: The Art of Loss
Release date: Feb. 26, 2016
One band's "loss" is another man's gain. That "loss," in this case, is Redemption's latest album, The Art of Loss, which explores the themes of love, fear and loss over the course of nine emotional and melodic tracks. The man, of course, is me – or any other fan of this superbly talented progressive metal band. We are the ones who gain a collection of spectacularly-crafted songs that will help strengthen, inspire, and – most importantly – kick our metal-loving asses over the remaining days of our lives.
Before we go any further, I should note that I'm among the most diehard fans of Redemption. For example, I was one of the fans to pledge funds in support of the band's Live from the Pit DVD filmed at ProgPower USA in Atlanta in 2012 (which I also attended). The band's 2009 album, Snowfall on Judgment Day, also ranks as one of my top five all-time favorite albums. The lyrics of guitarist/keyboardist Nick van Dyk have touched me like those of few others – even changing the way I'll look at life, in some cases – and the band’s exhilarating music is able to be both beautiful and soul-crushingly heavy at the same time. It's a unique mix that few bands can pull off, but Redemption has done it album after album for over a decade now. Oh, and there's also that gorgeous voice of Ray Alder, who is better known for his work with Fates Warning, one of the pioneering bands of progressive metal. If he's singin', I’m listenin'.
The first matter to address when discussing The Art of Loss is that it's the band's first album without top-notch guitarist Bernie Versailles, who is continuing to recover from an aneurysm. In classy fashion, the band dedicated the album to Versailles, stating in the liner notes they "await his recovery from medical issues and return to the band when is ready." Considering van Dyk recently overcame his own medical issue – a cancer scare that inspired the band's 2011 album This Mortal Coil – it's no surprise that Versailles' mates handled his situation in a compassionate and kindhearted way. To fill his shoes, they recruited a handful of special guest guitarists: Simone Mularoni, Marty Friedman, Chris Broderick and lastly Chris Poland, the latter three of which are best known for their tenures with heavy metal legends Megadeth.
I couldn't help but admire the album’s artwork before even listening to the disc. It features a broken wine glass on its side with red liquid spilt on a white background – almost appearing like blood. Very simple, yet very powerful. It prompted several questions in my mind before even hearing a song, such as who dropped the glass and what caused he or she to drop it? Was it someone experiencing some sort of horrific news and dropping it in shock and, if so, what was the news? You've gotta love the thought-provoking nature of progressive metal art. The album, though, took a few listens to click with me for some reason. But once it clicked, it clicked. A very solid and satisfying Redemption album. One I know I'll be turning to when I'm in need of emotional comfort or intense headbanging. And that's all you can ever ask for.
The album starts with the catchy title track and then hammers out a string of six songs that are on par with some of the band’s best work. The highlights for me start with "Thirty Silver," a blistering track that features solos by all three former Megadeth axemen, and "The Center of the Fire," which has a stunning and addicting chorus. Other favorites include the uplifting "That Golden Light" and "Hope Dies Last," which has a piano intro reminiscent of Snowfall's "Black and White World." I also must praise the brilliant rendition of The Who's 1973 song, "Love, Reign O'er Me," which boasts an impressive performance by Armored Saint vocalist John Bush, as well as the 20-minute epic closer, "At Day's End," which is a major grower.
My only critique is that I would’ve liked for the band to indicate in the liner notes if the songs were inspired by a poem or other creative work. For example, the second track," Slouching Towards Bethlehem," was evidently based on Irish poet W.B. Yeats' "The Second Coming," which van Dyk explained in the comments section of Coverkiller Nation's YouTube review of The Art of Loss. In addition, "The Center of the Fire" seems to be based on Oriah Mountain Dreamer's "The Invitation," which I discovered by accident. I ended up enjoying much of her work, and it would’ve been cool to know if other songs were based on, or inspired by, poems.
If you're a fan of Redemption, you won’t be disappointed. If you ask me, The Art of Loss has everything we’ve come to love about the band, despite the four-year break between releases and the unfortunate absence of Versailles. With a back catalog that grows more and more mind-blowing with each release, let's just hope they find a way to perform live again soon.
- Michael R. Ebert (progzombie.blogspot.com)