Redemption’s second album The Fullness of Time proved to be such a well received album that the band quickly moved to Inside Out, releasing their debut album here, titled The Origins of Ruin. Largely sticking to the successful formula of its predecessor, the new album sees a slight lineup change in the addition of new bassist Sean Andrews from Henning Pauly’s Chain project. The rest of the band have refined their strength, still employing the services of the amazing producer Tommy Newton, who has rendered yet another hard-hitting sonic quality to the album. Once again, Nicolas van Dyk has written all music and lyrics, besides sticking to his multi-instrumentalist role as guitarist and keyboardist of Redemption.
The Origins of Ruin could be evaluated as a two-part record in large: The first four songs are the more intricate tracks, carrying a distinct progressive awareness to them; while the last four cuts are more melodically enhanced straightforward pieces, with the short title track bridging these two parts with a smooth piano melody and mostly a capella vocals from Ray Alder, undoubtedly among prog metal’s greatest singers. Even though Alder did not co-write any of the songs, his ability to apply a melodic edge to even the longest verses is nothing short of stunning. His phrasing, the tone of his midrange voice and unique delivery attest to his versatility and it is highly questionable whether another vocalist could sing these lyrics the way they were meant. The track-listing of the album seems carefully planned, as both pieces that conclude the “parts” are the album’s longer tracks, breaking the nine-minute mark.
This album could be Redemption’s most powerful one-two punch start to date. “The Suffocating Silence” begins with an assault of thrashy riffage strung across a neat synth line and solid rhythmic bottom. Without getting redundant, there is room for both a keyboard and guitar solo, accompanied by a gripping vocal melody — the instrumental finale of this song is so brilliantly executed that it evokes Liquid Tension Experiment, with drum fills akin to Mike Portnoy’s. Chris Quirarte’s drumming gets only better. He is fast becoming one of my favourites in the genre and his tone is solid as a rock. “Bleed My Dry” kicks off with a very strong guitar melody, which is later repeated by Alder during the chorus, and boasts a stomping bass and guitar interplay, whilst the song lyrically examines the state of mind of a person after a devastating break-up. The subject matter of the previous two albums is kept intact: van Dyk still uses dark themes of self-doubt, deceit, intolerance, and angst.
“The Death of Faith and Reason” is the most complex and challenging Redemption song with its thick groove, aggressive (and slightly processed) vocal attack, and super technical arrangement. The subtle keyboard use behind the central instruments sort of recalls Threshold and the mix is possibly their heaviest yet. The first epic “Memory” is not only a worthy successor to the epic-length “Sapphire” off of their previous album, but it also blends myriad textures: sparse keyboards, wind effects, throbbing bass, and a strikingly catchy guitar theme. The song moves from mood to mood and serves it with fitting shifts of slower and heavier passages — and Ray Alder’s vocals are his best on the album, particularly those at the very end.
Unfortunately, as good as The Origins of Ruin is, it does lose some momentum in its second half. “Man of Glass” is a straightahead melodic metal cut that plays it safe while “Blind My Eyes” is a midtempo, ballad-like track, but honestly, Nick has written much better ballads and the lyrics constantly addressing the theme of broken relationships does get stale after a while. Also, I feel the chorus just falls short compared to the more riveting harmonies most Redemption songs have been blessed with. “Used to Be” picks up the pace, utilising heavier fretwork, corrosive bass, and a moving guitar solo at the end. “Fall on You” closes the album, bringing in acoustic guitars, some nice backing harmonies, and cool Middle Eastern-scaled melodies, but the use of constant double bass and repeated guitar riffage during the middle part, with a lengthy synth melody, do give off the vibe that the song could have been cut at least two or three minutes shorter. Melodic metal is a great genre, but churning out repeating riffs can be overkill, as is the case here. Luckily, the last section of the song does regain its magic and wraps things up on a positive note.
This album contains some of the best Redemption songs ever, but it does not maintain as consistent a flow as its predecessors. To its credit, the production here is Redemption’s best yet and their a multi-album deal promises more discs to come from them. Like label mates Riverside, they moved from the small (but amazing!) Laser’s Edge/Sensory to the best prog label in the world — news has it that Inside Out will issue this album with two bonus tracks, featuring covers by Tori Amos and UFO, so you may want to be on the lookout for it.
With the departure of Threshold (and perhaps Evergrey as well) from Inside Out, I see no reason why Redemption shouldn’t become the label’s priority — they will get big. Mark my words.