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So, here we have Redemption's newest album, Snowfall on Judgment Day. I was actually slightly anticipating this, I must admit. Their previous album, The Origins of Ruin, while far from perfect, was certainly a step in the right direction from the mire of sappy melodrama that was The Fullness of Time; indeed, I actually enjoyed it a fair amount. So, would Redemption continue the trend upwards and release something on par with their debut? Sadly, no, not even close - Snowfall on Judgment Day is a muddy, uninspired mess of too many sounds with not enough ideas.
The album kicks off with some wasted space in the form of goofy orchestration, which cuts suddenly to our first riff. The first thing you might notice is the production - it's *very* brickwalled, complete with thick guitars, background keyboards, and the obligatory obnoxiously loud kick drum (honestly, why do bands feel the need to do this?). There's simply too many sounds on this album, too much auditory information to process at once, yet none of the melodies are particularly memorable. Ray Alder's vocals then enter, revealing yet another problem - he simply sounds terrible here. Oddly muted, unnecessarily multi-tracked, and with absolutely no memorable vocal lines in sight. He seems to be going for the angst value here, and it doesn't work at all. Eventually he hits some more melodic material, but that doesn't really work, either. It's hard to believe this is the same man who sang on Parallels or even A Pleasant Shade of Gray.
The songs are all longer than they really have any right to be, stretching every idea to the very limit. The *shortest* song on this album is 5:15, and the longest clocks in at 11:00. There simply isn't enough substance here to fill that length. If they had buckled down and written some short, intense tracks they'd at least have had a bit more variety to keep me interested. As it stands, sitting through all ~70 minutes of this album feels more like a chore than anything else.
The music here itself isn't all that bad, but it's certainly nothing to write home about. Modern prog cliches are piled onto each other, played very well but lacking any sort of inspiration. Often, in true Redemption fashion, it just falls into sappy nonsense. While there's nothing here as overtly vomit-inducing as The Fullness of Time Pt. 4, Snowfall on Judgment Day certainly has its fair share of poppy nonsense. The first whiffs of it appear on Walls, with its big "emotional" chorus, but it hits full force on Black and White World. It doesn't stop there, though - What Will You Say? is one of the worst ballads I've heard in a long time, complete with saccharine vocal lines and wretched lyrics, that somehow manages to last over five minutes without once engaging the listener. The album's closer opens somewhat promisingly, but once again dissolves into tripe reminiscent of a Disney movie soundtrack towards the end. I honestly thought Redemption might be leaving this crap behind with The Origins of Ruin, but I know better now. I guess cheese-packed, sugar-coated melodies are just too deeply ingrained in Nick Van Dyk's songwriting.
The album's attempts at aggression generally don't fare much better. Leviathan Rising chugs along, contrasting snoreworthy modern thrash with hooky choruses and ultimately doing nothing of value. Another Day Dies follows along the same path, only with the added bonus of Dream Theater's James LaBrie providing some vocal lines, which, while not particularly good, are certainly a lot better than most of what Alder does on this album.
There are some legitimately good songs here - Unformed is genuinely moving, especially given the subject matter, though it still could have been better without the plethora of keyboard lines. Keep Breathing continues in a similar fashion, and while the lesser of the two, is still quite passable. Fistful of Sand is the only aggressive track of the album that doesn't fall completely flat, though that Peel-like chorus is still pretty lame.
The musicianship is all immaculate, flashy, and utterly uninspiring. The riffs are aggressive, crunchy, and for the most part quite pedestrian. Good ones pop up every now and then, but even those are mired in the crappy production. The keyboards are everywhere, playing atmospheric bits as well as diddly little melodies which you often can't really pick out due to there simply being too much at any one time. Every so often they'll thankfully throw in a brilliant Bernie Versailles solo to break up the monotony, but even his guitar wizardry can't save this perpetually bland album.
This isn't a particularly good prog metal album. Redemption are obviously a talented band, but talent and lengthy compositions aren't enough to produce good prog metal. The number of melody lines you can play at once won't help you when none of them are good enough for the listener to recall a half hour later - quality of quantity, as cliche as it may be, holds true here.