Album Review - Redemption - Snowfall On Judgment Day
"Take my hand now, hold it tight
Feel my presence
And know that it will be all right
At the ocean, touch the sea
Feel my heartbeat
And know that this was meant to be
Love will lead with us in tow
No more obstacles
Ahead is just the open road
Color overcomes this night
My world's no longer black and white"
One Word Review: Stunning
Redemption released their fourth album, Snowfall on Judgment Day, in 2009, the third in a row voiced by Fates Warning's Ray Alder. Let me tell you right away: There are some real gems on this one. On the first listen more than half the songs stood out and made an instant impression. That is highly unusual with a progressive metal release.
Usually my reaction to what turns out to be a superb progressive metal album goes something like this:
First listen = Confused but strangely intrigued
5'th listen = There is definitely something here
15'th listen = Wow! Brilliant!
With Snowfall on Judgment Day my reaction was more like this:
First listen = Wow! Brilliant!
5'th listen = Album of the year!
15'th listen = Oh my god this is fantastic. Aha aha I like it. (little dance) Woo!
With Snowfall... Peel , Walls , Black and White World , Keep Breathing , What Would You Say? and Love Kills Us All/Life In One Day were all standouts on the first listen and have remained firm favorites since. The rest took the normal route and around the fifteenth listen they finally started to grow. That was my initial impression back in 2009. Three years later, the album has not lost its impact. Not one bit.
As you may notice, if you have heard the album, all my favorites are the most melodic ones, but they are also the ones where the lyrics make the biggest impact. It's like these lyrics are on another level compared to everything else. They are incredibly well written, cover a variety of different emotions and are related in a way that gets under the skin, touching a special nerve on the way.
Ray Alder has a major part in making the lyrics work so well. I believe I have never heard him give a better performance and this comes from a long time fan who has loved his work since Fates Warning's No Exit from 1988. His performance is perfectly balanced. Flawless is too cold a word to describe his performance. He complements the music and completes it in a way which makes several passages magical.
The musicians are brilliant all around. It's great to actually be able to hear the bass in the sound and there's a ton of detail in drums (genius performance by Chris Quirarte), bass and guitar to enjoy on repeated listens. The keyboard also perfectly utilized as it doesn't take focus but enhances the sound with subtle melodies and atmospheres.
Peel opens the ball with a foreboding keyboard melody, shattered by a technical and inventive mesh of bass, drums and guitar. Ray Alder's voice floats on top of the manic background in a way that is both calming and contradicting in a genius way. The vocal melodies he delivers are wonderful.
Walls was an instant favorite. From the brilliant sharp guitar solo, which leads the song away, through to the superb chorus that goes on and on and beyond, the song is pure melodic perfection. This song is one of many examples of how the piano enhances the song in a subtle but important way. There's even a small nod (drum roll) to Dream Theater's "Pull Me Under" around the 5 minute mark.
Things get heavier with Leviathan Rising , a song that took a while to fully bloom but eventually won me over by means of a headbanging guitar riff.
Song number 4 seems to have a special significance when it comes to Redemption. For the past two albums the fourth song has been my absolute favorite and this time it's no different. Black and White World is an astounding piece of music. This song has everything, truly. It covers amazing ground in its 8 minutes and touches on the whole range of emotion in way that is not often experienced through a song. From despair to joy in 8 minutes, the song builds momentum from its piano opening where a certain sense of melancholy is set, and with its final magical passage, ends on a note so high it can only be described as complete fulfillment. Can a song embody the passion of true love? Listen to this song, feel it and make up your own mind. At the very least, here is a song that has the guts to try.
Unformed has the unthankful task of continuing the album. It takes a rather more direct and forceful approach.
Keep Breathing is another emotional highlight. The lyrics are devastating, yet life affirming. Ray Alder breathes life to the lyrics in a way that hits the right nerve. The song develops from fragile to determined as the music evolves from acoustic to heavy in a way that is convincing and touching.
Another Day Dies with James Labrie on guest vocals wins on repeated listen. The lyrics are chilling and Labrie delivers a fine performance. The guitar and drum work is splendid with new details standing out with each listen.
What Will You Say? is yet another highlight. The song is utterly melodic and has one of those choruses that I wish would never end. Again the lyrics have a special way of laying it perfectly on the line. Melancholy is perfectly captured in both music and lyrics.
The 11 minute opus Love Kills Us All/Life in One Day ends the album on a peak. This is one of those songs that has to be experienced, as the feeling I get while listening to it simply cannot be explained (Of course I am now going to try). The song slowly builds through its three parts. First a moody, melancholic introduction, followed by a powerful instrumental section, making a mood switch at the 5 minute mark, which leads to a major highlight as Ray enters the sound with the words "Seems so strange to think of." I love this vocal melody as it holds so much tension and emotion. It reappears with "Snow fell on the platform..". As if that was not enough, the band performs another magic trick with the chorus, especially the "transient connection" line lingers on for a long time. With another atmospheric switch around the 9 minute mark, the song reaches an ending crescendo where it feels as if the past trilogy of Redemption albums come full circle and are concluded with the most powerful and positive message I can imagine. So simple and beautiful.
After my first listen to the album back in 2009, I remember sitting back with a very powerful feeling of "Yes! They did it. Amazing". Many listens later, I still get the same joyful feeling. Finally someone has managed to capture such intense and powerful feelings in music. This doesn't happen every year.
If art is defined as an expression by one or more individuals in an attempt to elicit an emotional response, then Snowfall on Judgment Day is Redemption's masterpiece. Snowfall on Judgment Day is musical perfection wrapped in tightly woven strands of emotion. Unpack them one by one and prepare to be overwhelmed.
In a word, stunning. Don't let this album slip through your fingertips.
Posted Sunday, July 01, 2012
Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2013 - Added video for Black and White World
I love this album so much. Their latest effort This Mortal Coil I found to be a bit disappointing. Not bad but not up to the level of Snowfall.
Posted by Steen - Monday, July 16, 2012
My first impression of This Mortal Coil is also that it doesn't quite reach the level of Snowfall... But I have to give it a few more chances.
I'd highly recommend the first three Redemption albums, but I have a feeling you already have those.
Posted by Little Drummer Boy - Sunday, August 12, 2012
Snowfall is brilliant and by all accounts I felt as though it was the album of the year, which was a year of many great releases especially in the area of progressive rock/metal.
When you talk about capturing emotion in music (through out an entire album) it is rare especially in Progressive music when all to often it is more about getting lost in the technical aspects. Somehow this album found that perfect balance to the power of 10.
I can not give this a perfect 10 even though I am hard pressed to find flaws in this release. As the cliche goes "always room for improvement". Where you go from there is beyond me at this time but I am sure there is some time down the road :)
As for This Mortal Coil I had a hard time getting into this one. I am victim to getting trapped with all the hype. The most obvious problem: the mix is flat. I expected more considering Neil Kernon was at the production helm of this project. All the dynamics were lost on this release. Anything progressive or symphonic requires unbelievable attention to detail and Kernon did not provide this. Problem two was my expectations in seeing Nick van Dyk was going to elevate higher than Snowfall. He is a great guitar player and writer but Snowfall may indeed be his greatest achievement (and what an achievement that was).
01. Peel [6:31] 02. Walls [6:56] 03. Leviathan Rising [6:41] 04. Black and White World [8:03] (Video) 05. Unformed [6:29] 06. Keep Breathing [7:37] 07. Another Day Dies [5:14] 08. What Will You Say [5:20] 09. Fistful of Sand [6:35] 10. Love Kills Us All / Life in One Day [11:00]