Review Summary: A darker, but still fun album from veteran power metallers Thomas Rettke and Sascha Paeth. Redkey is a terrific warmup for a team that will hopefully start moving and shaking in the metal scene again soon.
Ah, Redkey. A story which, in order to be told, must be started with another story. So there's this band called Heaven's Gate - they kick all sorts of ass from the 80s to the 90s as far as cheesy German power metal goes. Then they break up in '99 and Sascha Paeth goes on to become a pretty damn popular producer (Edguy, Kamelot, Rhapsody) while Paeth continues to do vocal work. They get back together 'round '06 and say "Hey! Want to go back into the biz together?" and indeed they do. The rest of Heaven's Gate are forgotten and a new project is begun.
As was the case with much of Heaven's Gate, there's a lot of sort of unconventional breaks and change-ups thrown around on the album while retaining recognizable and catchy chorus phrases. Rettke's voice doesn't quite go as high as it used to, but he can still break ground about as well as his contemporaries. His voice retains a special tone to it which seems to have been conferred by his German accent, as it sounds similar, at least in part, to Michael Kiske's (Helloween). From time to time, there is also a low, almost growling vocal (something entirely new to Rettke's vocal repertoire) which always fits in and adds to the dark mood set by the track.
The guitars on this album are markedly understated, especially considering previous efforts by Paeth. Through the majority of the album, the lead guitar is covered by both rhythm guitar and bass parts, which wade in heavy and lay down a crunchy ground attack. It's very difficult to hear the quiet quiet, ongoing leads played throughout each and every track. Well, at least until the almost inevitable solo comes around to impress.
Most of the material follows this pattern, but as with all power metal, there's something "epic" to be found here. And if nowhere else, it can be found on the closing track "The Fortune," which begins with a slathering of effects and keyboards the likes of which you might expect from a progressive outfit like Ayreon. This is the track that really gives you the feeling that this band will be around to offer something bigger and better the next time they go into the studio.
The album is unable to escape two things Heaven's Gate always had massive amounts of, however. The first is cheese. If you're going to listen to this album, expect it. It may be even a little worse than your normal cheese because it feels like they're really trying to be heavy and serious with this album. But when there's a song which simply repeats "we are respectable / respectable" Well, there you have it. Cheese. On toast, even.
The second is fun. I've always been able to pick up any Heaven's Gate album and simply say "this would be good to liven up boring work" or "here's something drive to!" The same is applicable here. This is the kind of metal you'll be singing along with on all of the choruses and banging your head to on all of the solos.
Overall, this album really feels like a sort of deviation from Heaven's Gate (hence all of the referencing) that sort of became a heavier creature. It's quite good, but simply leaves you wanting perhaps a little more integration of the old sound in addition to innovation. This isn't a groundbreaking album, but it's certainly not bad and it's certainly not disinteresting.