Foregoing Cheese for Lent? Sail the High Seas of Cheddar with Redemption’s The Art of Loss

  • Kip Wingerschmidt

Paired with a dry white wine, rich vintage cheddar can be positively delightful. But in the music world — especially our glorious scene of heavy — save for the wild card kitch factor, uber-cheesy offerings are often frowned upon, aside from admittedly well-defined guilty pleasures. And any frommage-forward artiste who takes him/herself extra seriously is usually deemed more laughable, for those who cannot grasp the actuality of their outputs are usually the most targetable.

But what about projects that inherently have a built-in nostalgia factor, or those that have an undercurrent of earnestness despite the overflowing cheese? In those cases perhaps a semi-pass is deserved, or at least a shoutout warranted for being above the base level. Furthermore, when sterling musicianship is involved, not to mention impressive guest appearances, it becomes much more challenging to simply write a band off for going gouda.

Redemption straddles many of the aforementioned lines and gives the notion of critical thinking a bit of a identity crisis. This longstanding yet long-on-hiatus band (which has been in existence for fifteen years years, although the sound rings of 80s-ish triumphant prog stylings) is pure, undeniable cheese: the music, the lyrics, the production — it’s tough to listen without spouting several ongoing moans and groans.

To wit, right out of the gate on new album The Art of Loss the band jumps into a trifecta of eye-rolling attributes: excessive noodly guitar shredding, underwhelming yrrl-y vocals (not to mention the clichéd, predictable lyrics), arpeggiated faux-synthetic piano lines. The singing/lyrical content leaves something to be desired throughout, and a great deal of the production choices (rhythm guitar and all keyboard/synth tones in particular) sound canned straight out of a 1980s effects palette.

And yet there is a considerable level of charm here as well. The prevalent guitar shredding is usually quite impressive and an ample handful of musical moments are pretty compelling. Plus, as silly as a lot of the vocal melodies may be, many are surprisingly memorable, which clearly has its merits. Even if you’re filled with disdain for this album, although it never quite transcends the boursin or ascends to the songwriting level the project seems to deserve, it’s tough not to root for this band a bit —  kind of like how you hope an aged stripper at least gets paid well for the night, even if it’s in buffalo wings.

The personnel on The Art of Loss certainly represents a variety of seasoned musical personalities: regular Redemption-ers Ray Alder (vocals), Nick van Dyk (guitars and keyboards), Sean Andrews (bass), and Chris Quirarte (drums) are joined on various tracks by dazzling guest guitarists Chris Poland, Marty Friedman, Chris Broderick and Simone Mularoni (filling the void left by the band’s other guitarist Bernie Versailles, who remains on medical hiatus while recovering from an aneurysm).

Another notable guest performance comes from vocalist John Bush (Anthrax/Armored Saint), who joins Alder in a duet covering Roger Daltrey on The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me” — perhaps the most successful vocal performance on the album, although Alder certainly isn’t leaving the havarti out on the verses or the bridge. Needless to say, Daltrey’s original winning chorus melody goes a long way here.

If you are one who is stirred by dramatic “metal” and like your cheese melted extra proggily, then chances are you’re already a Redemption fan. The material on The Art of Loss may be far from cool, but we’ve heard plenty dorkier before and you certainly won’t be bored… just don’t forget the crackers!

Redemption’s The Art of Loss is out now on Metal Blade. You can stream the track “Damaged” and purchase the album here.

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