Redemption: The Art Of Loss (Metal Blade)
The sixth album from Progressive metal supergroup Redemption goes some way to recapture the glorious sounds of the bands' fourth album Snowfall On Judgement Day this record is the bands' yard stick, 2011's This Mortal Coil was a more deeply personal album and because of this it was introspective in scope, that isn't to say that it wasn't good it just wasn't as good as Snowfall. The Art Of Loss the bands first record for Metal Blade, steps things up a gear or two, harking back to the earlier more grandiose sound the band favoured. Yet again the album is a showcase for Nick Van Dyk who is the primary songwriter, guitarist and adds some keys, he creates the scores featured on this record that are delivered with a talent par excellence by the rest of the band, particular kudos go to guitarist Bernie Versailles, drummer Chris Quirarte and of course the stunning vocals of Fate's Warning's Ray Alder who really does have the perfect voice for this sort of emotive progressive music, able to convey heartbreak and hope in equal measure. The album also has a couple of high profile guests with ex-Megadeth men Chris Poland, Chris Broderick and Marty Friedman all adding some six sting wizardry and Armored Saint shouter John Bush contributing vocals to somewhat superfluous cover of The Who's Love Reign O'er Me.
The one thing I would say about this record and indeed any of Redemption's work, is that it does carry an emotional punch, at times it can be all consuming but for the most part the dark lyrical content is balanced by the soaring melodies and outright heaviness in the musical compositions. When I say songs I mean that, yes there is a lot of showing off it is prog after all, but Redemption have always relied on creating a song first then adding the more technical parts and musical posturing afterwards. Still at 75 minutes long it can all feel a little overwhelming at times especially when after 53 minutes of intricate, thought provoking music including the 10 minute Hope Dies Last, you are faced with the 22 minute final track At Day's End many will despair or lose interest but I implore you to stick with it as the final track is surely the albums magnum opus. The Art Of Loss is a step in the right direction for Redemption with personal troubles of the bands leader hopefully now a thing of the past they can focus on moving forward, one criticism would be that the record could be a few songs shorter but other than that The Art Of Loss is and album that excite and enthrall those that love Prog metal and one that will see Redemption finding their feet again in style. 8/10
Now Or Never: II (Mighty Music)
Multi-National metal mob Now Or Never have taken three years to release their second album the aptly named II but despite the gap the song indeed remains the same with brawny, muscle-bound metal being the order of the day. The band was formed by Ex-Pretty Maids men Ricky Marx (guitar) and Kenn Jackson (bass) and with it's broad but mostly European membership (Denmark/France/Switzerland) you'd be forgiven for thinking the band will sound like so many other Euro-metal bands but Now Or Never have a distinctly American sound with monstrous dirty riffs from Marx and Jackson combined with the rugged Russell Allen-like vocals from Joe Amore evoking US Metal legends Manilla Road, early Manowar, Iced Earth and latter day Symphony X. II rides the fine line between traditional/power metal and hard rock which means there is quite a bit of variation to be had on the tracks and means that the record doesn't get repetitive. Songs such as the opening rager The Voice Inside and the heavyweight crunch of King For A Day are very good, in fact this writer was surprised just how good this band are, II is an album that doesn't really slow down with the first four tracks battering you into submission, mainly due to albums sparkling production that makes everything sound very loud. I'll Be Waiting starts slow but turns into a huge mountain top ballad with thunderous drums from Ranzo, before the power ramps back up again in the second part of the album. Before this record I hadn't really heard of Now Or Never but I'm glad I have now, they are a great band that have two albums full of metal anthems. 7/10
Blackhour: Sins Remain (Transcending Obscurity India)
Asia seems to be the new frontier for metal at the moment with hundreds of bands breaking out of the continent playing music that can be seen as counter-culture and in certain countries even illegal or Satanic. Adding their name to an ever expanding list of bands willing to go against the norm are Pakistan's Blackhour who play the kind of NWOBHM that launched the careers of Maiden and Priest and was forbear for the thrash explosion in California. In fact the 8 tracks on this record split their sound between that of early Iron Maiden and early Metallica, the similarities are uncanny in places meaning that a few of the songs on this record move into the realm of a cover band, even though they are playing their own songs. Saying this the band are all accomplished players and the songs themselves are well constructed metal songs with some technical flourishes and changes in time and pace giving them a progressive edge. However the one thing that lets this record down is the production, it's scratchy and yes retro but it sounds more like a cassette than an vinyl, I will admit it does add to the D.I.Y spirit of the NWOBHM era but there are ways to get this sound while still sounding good. Still this really the only gripe, yes the songs are a little samey and as I've said its a little too near cover band territory at times but it's a fun metal album that adds another band rebelling against the social norm, which really is the point of heavy metal. 7/10