Over the years, Redemption has consistently delivered strong, hard-hitting power-metal-inflected progressive metal. Their sound has developed into something consistent, and to most of us fans, great. Still, if there were one criticism to make of Redemption, it might be that they never stretch themselves beyond their platform; they know what their comfort zone is, and they tend to stay there.
Enter: The Art of Loss. This album finds the band exploring somewhat slower (read: mid-tempo) paces and more expressive rhythmic structures. This allows the songs to benefit from some significant breathing room. The upshots here: the listener gets better insight into the guitar/keyboard interplay, lead vocalist Ray Alder doesn't need to work quite so hard to cram all those lyrics in, the more atmospheric song sections groove a lot better, and more attention paid to bassist Sean Andrews.
The signature Redemption sound consists of tight rock song structures decorated with prog-metal embellishments. For listeners who don't spend much time listening to progressive music, this has the benefit of "sneaking prog into" otherwise straight-ahead hard rock music without jarring the listener. For prog-metal fans, by contrast, there is always a risk that we might underestimate the technicality of the music, although it's generally safe to say that the average prog-music fan is attentive enough to music that s/he will catch all the goodies.
There are a lot of goodies to catch on The Art of Loss. A standout here is the angry "Thirty Silver," which features a lot of pretty intense lead guitar work, yet despite all that, manages to captivate me with its bass and drum work. Musicians know this is a hard thing to get right - it's hard for every player in the band to be working that hard, all at the same time. One risks over-loading the listener with a flurry of notes if the song isn't well composed. Redemption nails it.
Even so, it's not all bombast here. This band has always had a penchant for approachable melodies, and this album features plenty of material to hum in the shower. And speaking of melody, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the album's biggest surprise: a cover of The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me." Typically Who covers are staples of the punk-rock scene, not the prog world, but it's crazy - this just works. Chris Quirarte's drumming truly shines here, and again the magic ingredient is musical space. Particularly during the guitar solos, he manages to put in some Keith Moon-inspired, but almost Rod Morgenstein-sounding drum fills that are an absolute delight to hear.
The bread-and-butter for prog fans, though, is sure to be the album's closing epic, "At Day's End." For me, this song is representative of the spirit of The Art of Loss album as a whole. From its atmospheric beginnings, to its groovy and spacious verses, to its progressive musical interludes, this is one prog epic that delivers the goods, and might be the best one Redemption's written yet. Note the keyboard tones. Note the many times when bass takes the lead. The band really must have had fun writing and recording this one - and it certainly shows.
For me, this is an extremely refreshing album. I can always count on the guys from Redemption to deliver hard-hitting prog-metal and incredible, technical performances. But it's nice to hear them groove a little more. It's nice to hear their musical evolution move ever-so-slightly away from the GO! GO! GO! pacing of their previous work and into a relaxed and mature band with a fuller command of their art.