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When reviewing this album, I find myself in a curious predicament. I love the music presented on this album, with its aggressive and energetic guitars, light and airy keyboard melodies, and splendid vocal performance. Sounding something like Symphony X with stronger songwriting, there's absolutely nothing musically that I dislike about this album. The lyrics, however, utterly kill half of the album for me. Generally I'm not to discretionary about the lyrics, but Redemption's overtly Christian lyrics really turn me off.
Musically, Redemption's self-titled debut album is second only to The Origins of Ruin, and is even superior at times. The guitar work is, as I mentioned, top-notch. The keyboard melodies are the best of any Redemption album, and are not overpowering. Like The Origins of Ruin, the sappy song endings aren't particularly prevalent (though Desperation Part IV ends particularly badly). Also, the production is nice and raw, not sounding overly-polished and artificial, with a biting guitar tone and vocals that don't overpower the music yet are still clearly audible. Rick Mythiasin's vocals are perfectly suited to Redemption's musical style, and I really wish they had stuck with him on vocals, as he does a much better job with them than Ray Alder does on the other albums.
Lyrically, however, this album is very hit-and-miss, at least for me. The blatant preaching on Desperation and As I Lay Dying really ruins those tracks for me, which is unfortunate as both are otherwise good songs. There's a lot of good writing that's simply wasted among the Christian inanity, as well - minus the religion, the lyrics are all very well-written and articulate. I really tried to look past the preaching, but I simply can't listen to someone sing
"God can be everything, God can be cruel
Sometimes He makes us live
Carrying a burden for thirty three years
They are no longer his sins to forgive "
with a straight face.
The songs that don't sport the preachy lyrics, however, are all absolutely great tracks. Nocturnal sports the heaviest riffs on the album, and will have any self-respecting metal fan headbanging. Window to Space is another great track, with some very nice airy acoustic guitar and the best vocal performance on the album. The best track, however, comes at the end. The epic Something Wicked This Way Comes is simply one of the best progressive metal tracks of all time. The lyrics are great, telling the story of the Ray Bradbury novel of the same name. Not once does the song get boring, quite a feat given its 25-minute length. Full of appropriately haunting melodies, the song ends the album with quite a bang.
I really want to give this album a higher rating, but simply too much of it is ruined by blatantly religious lyrics. I have no problem with the occasional mention of "God," at least in the figurative sense, but I really can't stand a band preaching to me about how I need to repent of my sins or go to hell. However, given the quality of the music, I can't really give it a low rating.
If you're a Christian, I highly recommend this album. If you're not, I recommend the three tracks I mentioned earlier. If nothing else, give Something Wicked This Way Comes a listen, as it's a song any progressive metal fan should hear.