Sunday, April 22, 2012

Redemption - This Mortal Coil (Limited Edition)

This Mortal Coil (Limited Edition)
Inside Out Music

With three absolutely stunning releases emerging from the band in as little as the last six years (I’m excluding their self-titled effort from 2003 because I was far from impressed with Rick Mythiasin’s vocals, and 2009’s live D.V.D./C.D. release ‘Frozen In The Moment - Live In Atlanta’ for obvious reasons), I was really looking forward to Redemption’s last effort ‘This Mortal Coil’ – not to mention expecting great things. But if I’m to be perfectly honest, I’ll admit that while the band’s fifth album is a solid and likeable release, ‘This Mortal Coil’ isn’t quite the follow-up to 2009’s classic ‘Snowfall On Judgment Day’ I had hoped Redemption were going to deliver.
In a lot of ways, Redemption (Who comprise of Fates Warning/Engine front man Ray Alder, guitarist/keyboardist Nick Van Dyk, guitarist Bernie Versailles, bassist Sean Andrews, keyboardist Greg Hosharian and drummer Chris Quirarte) haven’t altered their progressive rock sound and approach to a large extent on this album, much like their last few releases. But in saying that, there’s no denying that ‘This Mortal Coil’ is by far their heaviest album to date, and in some ways, it’s that heavier sound that works against the band’s tried and true sound of the past.
The opening track ‘Path Of The Whirlwind’ is a prime example of the new and heavier sound that Redemption have adopted for their latest release, and a good indication of what to expect from the bulk of the album. The guitars are definitely up front and high in the mix, with an added crunch that wouldn’t sound too out of place on a modern thrash album. But while there’s nothing wrong with a heavier sound, when it comes at the expense of the vocals, it’s a high price. In the past, Alder has always been a major asset to Redemption’s overall sound. But on this track, he sounds pushed back in the mix, and to some extent, out of his comfort zone with the band’s heavier approach. ‘Path Of The Whirlwind’ isn’t necessarily a bad song, but far from one of the band’s finest compositions.
‘Blink Of An Eye’, albeit a guitar heavy track, is a little more of what we’ve come to know and love about Redemption, with the song’s choruses and Alder’s vocals the song’s strongest selling point.
‘No Tickets To The Funeral’ is one of the album’s stranger tracks in that the song seems to lie somewhere between the melodic past and the heavier presence of the present, which means that while the choruses are quite strong and memorable, the verses can be a little hit and miss at times.
The nine minute epic ‘Dreams From The Pit’ is undoubtedly one of the album’s real stand-out tracks where the band manage to make the aggressive work in tandem with Alder’s great melodies and vocals (Alder absolutely shines throughout this song), while the fast paced ‘Noonday Devil’ is another favourite with its somewhat experimental and different sound to anything else the band offer up on the album.
In the past, Redemption has always delivered a winner on the ballad front. But such is not the case here, with ‘Let It Rain’ and the mid-paced ‘Focus’ coming across as formula based and too simplistic, which means that the tracks lack energy and sound dull for the most part, which is a real disappointment.
‘Perfect’ does fare better than the former couple of tracks, as does ‘Begin Again’ to some extent (Which features a guest solo appearance from Shadow Gallery Keyboardist Gary Wehrkamp), but it’s ‘Stronger Than Death’ and the epic closing track ‘Departure Of The Pale Horse’ (Which reprises elements of ‘Stronger Than Death’) where the band really showcase their strengths in terms of memorable song writing and technical finesse.
As mentioned earlier, this is a review of the limited edition version of ‘This Mortal Coil’, which means that aside from the album itself, the band have included a second disc that comprises of six covers, which the band claim are tracks ‘that one would not expect be performed by a progressive metal band’. But despite Redemption’s bold claim, their first offering is Elton John’s classic ‘Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding' (From 1973’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’) – a track that most would already know was covered by Dream Theater way back in 1995 on ‘A Change Of Seasons’. Regardless of the band’s somewhat misleading statement, their version is a great one, and different enough to stand apart from any former versions that exist. Alder practically owns Jefferson Starship’s ‘Jane’ (Which appeared on 1979’s ‘Freedom At Point Zero’) and Journey’s ‘Edge Of The Blade’ (From 1983’s ‘Frontiers’), while the band’s take on UFO’s classic ‘Love To Love’ (From 1977’s ‘Lights Out’) is absolutely first class.
The cover of Toto’s ‘Hold The Line’ (From 1978’s ‘Toto’) isn’t so much bad, but more a case of predictable, which means that it’s passable and fairly standard.
But while all the former covers have their strong points, it’s the final track that really stands out.
Although having been previously released on the Japanese pressing of 2007’s ‘The Origins Of Ruin’, Redemption (With a guest vocal performance from Anna Kristina taking over from Alder) really does make an impression with their take on Tori Amos’ ‘Precious Things’ (From 1992’s ‘Little Earthquakes’), which closes out the bonus disc on a high note.
Overall, ‘This Mortal Coil’ is a good album, but a confused effort to say the least. In their attempt to toughen up their sound, the band has sacrificed some of the key elements that made them stand out from a lot of other progressive rock acts on the scene – namely emotion, atmospherics, melody and their biggest selling point - Alder’s vocals.
‘This Mortal Coil’ is good, but hardly Redemption’s best. Hopefully with their next album, the band will find the right balance between aggression and heaviness and their former sound. But as it stands, this album is for the diehard fans.

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© Justin Donnelly