The last time progressive metal super-group Redemption wowed fans and critics alike with their fifth album, This Mortal Coil, NASA had found the possibility of water on Mars and the world’s population officially hit seven billion. These landmark events aren’t directly relevant to This Mortal Coil, but they’re just as heavy as the album’s concept, which involved Redemption guitarist/keyboardist Nick van Dyk and his cancer scare. Now, five years later, the Angelenos have returned with their much-awaited follow up: The Art of Loss.
“This is longer than we generally take between releases, but it’s been a busy time. We toured a bit in support of ‘This Mortal Coil’, and performed in 2012 at the Progpower festival, where we took our production values up a notch and recorded the performance for a DVD/CD release,” says van Dyk of Redemption’s time between full-lengths. “Ray [Alder, vocals] has been very busy, and we have had the usual assortment of challenges that this band faces from time to time, including Bernie [Versailles, the group’s long-time guitar partner to van Dyk] being sidelined by his aneurysm from which he is thankfully recovering. But we’ve pushed through it as we always do and we’re very excited to bring new music to our existing and new fans.”
Musically, The Art of Loss follows its predecessor, insofar as Redemption continue to expertly play melody against aggression, without losing sight of what a good song needs: hooks and dynamics. But their newest work finds composition, musicianship and production taken up another notch, with an array of songs ranging from hard-hitting melodic metal to the 23-minute epic “At Day’s End”. “Nearly every artist says that their current work is their best every time out, and saying that engenders an appropriate amount of cynicism from the audience,” van Dyk says knowingly. “But I can honestly say the following: it’s the first record of ours that — even after listening to it literally hundreds of times during recording and mixing — I’m still not tired of. I still play it almost daily. I think the record is our best and really comes together in all ingredients: songwriting, performances and production. The musicianship is extraordinary, Ray sounds amazing, and the production is terrific. I also have to mention the artwork. The whole package is really our best work yet.”
Clearly, van Dyk is upbeat about the promise of The Art of Loss. The songs, the collaboration responsible for making it all possible, the musicianship, the Tommy Hansen production, and, of course, the Travis Smith (Opeth, Amorphis) cover art are all first class – as is the band’s incredible group of guest guitarists, including Chris Poland and Marty Friedman, as well as Chris Broderick and Simone Mularoni. “I’m sure it seems like there was some master plan in place,” van Dyk says, “but it really came together organically.”
He continues: “When we started, I thought we might as well shoot for the stars in terms of guest talent, and I developed a short list in my head of who might not just be incredibly talented but also musically unique, and Marty was at the top of that list,” van Dyk recalls. “I reached out to him through a mutual friend and he said he’d be open-minded to listening to our music once we got it in decent shape. Chris Broderick is a friend of the band and had mentioned that he wanted to be helpful given Bernie’s situation, but we weren’t clear how much time he would have as he has been launching his new band. Meanwhile, Chris Poland is an established session musician in Los Angeles, and I was having a conversation with a friend about who might contribute to the record given Bernie’s medically-necessitated leave of absence. He suggested Chris, with whom he had worked before. Stylistically, the non-traditional approach that Chris takes really brings a lot of uniqueness to the music. Marty finished work on two tracks right around the time that I started speaking with Chris Poland. Meanwhile, Simone, who I had met through Tom Englund of Evergrey, said that he’d play some solos on our record. Simone was very generous with his time and played some absolutely mind-boggling stuff on four songs for us. One solo, in particular, just made Ray laugh when he heard it because it’s just jaw-dropping. Towards the end of recording, Chris Broderick came up for air after he completed the Act of Defiance record, and reiterated his interest in helping us. It wasn’t really until that happened that I saw how all these pieces were coming together.”
Another guest musician is vocalist John Bush, whose involvement in Anthrax and Armored Saint has labeled him as one of the best heavy metal vocalists around. Redemption has the famed front-man covering Roger Daltrey on The Who’s “Love Reign o’er Me”. “John’s a great guy and I think one of the all-time underrated vocalists in heavy music,” says van Dyk. “The guy is so good it’s scary. Anybody who hasn’t seen him perform live should make it a mission to do so – the power and control that he has is astonishing. I’d been thinking of this The Who song, but to pull it off you have to nail the vocal performance, which is one of the most iconic vocal performances in the history of rock music, really. It might be the single greatest rock vocal of all time. John kills it and his voice is a great counterpart to Ray – they’re a perfect duet for this song. I picked the song because I thought it would lend itself well to a cover in the style that we have tended to do – but also because we’re all friends with Bernie and this is a tribute to him and his recovery.”
Lyrically, The Art of Loss isn’t based on an obvious theme, but much of it is about the choice between love and fear. “Many of the songs deal with the concept of love being more important than fear,” he explains. “This doesn’t apply solely to a romantic relationship–it cuts to the very core of self-worth, self-confidence, and our ability to learn and grow as human beings and to ultimately take responsibility for our actions. Love must conquer fear for us to live. That’s the central theme in a nutshell.”
If there’s one major change to Redemption it’s their move from InsideOut to Metal Blade. The members of the group have friends at the California-based label, who championed the band to CEO Brian Slagel. The rest, as they say, is history. “The label had been aware over the years of our relationship with previous labels, but we never really had a serious conversation about moving to Metal Blade, in part because I don’t like to impose on friends,” reveals van Dyk. “Last time we were contemplating renewing a contract, though, [Metal Blade’s] Tracy [Vera] approached me proactively with the idea of working together. She has been a tremendous advocate and the entire Metal Blade team is fantastic to work with. It’s great to be in business with friends and I feel special pressure–in a good way–not to disappoint them! Obviously, the label is one of the great indies in the world and is a legend in heavy music, so it’s a great place for us to be. We’re honored to be part of the Metal Blade family.”
In the end, van Dyk hopes fans walk away from The Art of Loss with a lasting experience, one that is memorable, challenging, and colorful. He also promises that the follow-up won’t be four years away, too.
Ray Alder – Vocals
Nick van Dyk – Guitars and Keyboards
Sean Andrews – Bass Guitar
Chris Quirarte – Drums
Bernie Versailles, the band’s other guitarist, remains on a medical hiatus at this time.
The Fullness of Time (2005)
The Origins of Ruin (2007)
Snowfall on Judgment Day (2009)
This Mortal Coil (2011)
The Art of Loss (2016)