Review Summary: Trying harder doesn't always yield better results.
Progressive metal is a genre that, maybe more than even the stale state of power metal, loves to pay homage to the past by way of new music. Ever since Dream Theater released the back-to-back landmarks Awake and Images And Words, progressive bands have been taking the blueprint laid down to them and attempting to reinvent the wheel. No shortage of bands have taken up the task, though few have ever matched those heights.
Redemption is not one of the bands content to regurgitate Dream Theater's past. Their definition of progressive metal does not begin and end with the most famous band in the genre, but incorporates a heavy influence from little known, but highly influential band Fates Warning. Combining the work of both bands gives an accurate representation of what Redemption is all about, but not an accurate picture of what Redemption is able to do with their influences.
The brainchild of guitarist/songwriter Nick van Dyk, Redemption has scored a coup for all prog fans. The band, now a well honed machine, features singer Ray Alder and guitarist Bernie Versailles, both stalwart members of Fates Warning. That they would not just appear as guests, but become members of Redemption, is a vote of tremendous confidence. That confidence was payed off with The Origins Of Ruin, the band's last album, and a stunning piece of work when compared to the flaccid nature of so much of what is labeled progressive metal.
Snowfall On Judgment Day continues Redemption's steady output, and cements the band as one of the top voices in the progressive world. As the slow drum beat of "Peel" builds up, the first guitar riff that cuts through is huge. The tone is the same as on the previous albums, a thick yet modern wall of sound that makes every riff sound larger than life. Keyboards enter early, pushed high into the mix, before Alder is able to give the song his trademark wails. The harmony vocals added to the chorus are buried in the mix, robbing the song of the power it should have. Power is on ample display on "Walls", a stripped down and simpler song featuring Alder powering his voice through a tasty melody, before Versailles lets rip with a complex but tasteful solo.
Redemption ups the ante on "Leviathan Rising", with a super heavy 7-string riff making it the most aggressive song in their catalog. "Black And White World" swings in the opposite direction, a classical piano piece opening the song in dramatic fashion before the song opens up in typical Redemption style. "Unformed" follows suit, trading clean guitars for the piano, rehashing the writing of everything the band has done to this point. Alder gives it his all, but his limitations as a vocalist are easily realized. Legendary as he may be in prog circles, his voice is thin, strained, one-dimensional. His performance is acceptable, but the shortcomings are highlighted when Dream Theater frontman James Labrie shows up for a guest spot on "Another Day Dies". Labrie's more powerful voice props the song up, giving it a new energy, supplying gorgeous harmonies as the chorus recalls the glory days of his own band.
It is here, as well as the shorter "What Will You Say" that the band finds their footing, the latter a ballad-tinged rocker with the strongest chorus on the album. These more focused works allow the band to ply their trade while not getting lost in the wandering passages that threaten all progressive music. They do a very good job of managing themselves, never falling into excess. Unfortunately, what is true of each song is not true of the album itself. At ten songs and over 70 minutes, this album is a behemoth. With so much crammed into every song, and so little variation in tone, tempo, and style, the experience is not what it could be. All of the songs here are well crafted examples of progressive metal, but there is simply too much here to digest all at once. The Origins Of Ruin, an almost identical album, felt much more satisfying because of its almost 15 minute shorter running time.
What Redemption has given prog fans is exactly what they want; another album of technical music with enough heart and emotion to overcome the somewhat robotic nature of the genre. Snowfall On Judgment Day is a good album, but it comes close to letting the listener overdose. For fans of the band, it is another welcome addition to their growing legacy. For people who may be interested in getting into the band, this is not the place to start. Snowfall of Judgment Day is a challenging listen in every way, and lacks the immediacy that makes The Origins Of Ruin the definitive Redemption album.