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On July 27, 2018, Redemption released their seventh full-length album, Long Night’s Journey Into Day. The release was mastered by Jacob Hansen, who has also worked with Amaranthe, Doro, Primal Fear and Volbeat. It is the first album to feature Evergrey vocalist Tom Englund on vocals, replacing longtime frontman Ray Alder, also of progressive metal institution Fates Warning. Englund’s highly emotional, husky vocal style could lend a rougher edge to Redemption’s simultaneously melodramatic and contemplative approach. It is also worth pointing out that in the band’s new promo shoot (https://www.redemptionweb.com/) he looks quite a lot like the 30-year-old Boomer (https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/30-year-old-boomer).
It’s a good choice, however, considering that Evergrey and Redemption are strongly reliant on their vocalists to define their sound. The Art of Loss was the band’s most eclectic effort, but Alder’s singing provided the basic foundation that defined it as a Redemption album. Englund could be better off in Redemption, given that Evergrey have been meandering for the last couple releases while the former band have been musically top-notch for most of their oeuvre. Chris Poland, formerly of Megadeth, returns for this album, having appeared on The Art of Loss for a very noticeable shred outing on the title track. He will be joined by Italian guitar veteran Simone Mularoni, of Empyrios and the estimable prog-power heavyweights DGM. Also, after an extensive coma after a 2014 aneurysm (https://www.facebook.com/Bernie-Versailles-379611832240834/), the band’s longtime lead guitarist Bernie Versailles returns to the lineup.
The title Long Night’s Journey Into Day is (according to the label, Metal Blade: https://www.metalblade.com/redemption/) an inversion of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, the title of a play by Eugene O’Neill concerning a dysfunctional family being destroyed by addiction. (Interestingly, the album title itself is also the title of a movie about life under apartheid, as revealed during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In other words, the most South African documentary imaginable.) The album itself sees more varied lyrical content.
The video for “Someone Else’s Problem” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQKHm_l-vcc) sees alternating shots of the band playing out in a very Bonneville Salt Flats-looking area, and of a woman luxuriating amongst various high-end items seething with unsubstantiated ennui and vindictiveness. Hilariously, like the divergent plot points in an episode of The Good Guys, the woman drives up to where the band are playing and contemptuously chucks a presumably very pricy set of pumps out the window at their feet. The band, consummate prog heads as they are, ignore this amusing display of human behavior completely and keep playing. It’s hard to tell exactly who is going to be someone else’s problem. It seems like it’s the woman, as the guy in this interaction is totally absent and the band seem to be slightly on the receiving end of this annoyance.
Englund was added in the hope of finding a replacement for Alder who could address the same themes with the right tone. The press release notes both bands cover the human condition – though it should be said that Evergrey often takes on a pessimistic approach. Nonetheless, Englund is best when he can exercise the full range of his voice, which a Redemption album certainly would permit.
Long Night’s Journey into Day tracklist
1. Eyes You Dare Not Meet in Dreams
2. Someone Else’s Problem
3. The Echo Chamber
5. Indulge in Color
6. Little Men
7. And Yet
8. The Last of Me
9. New Year’s Day
10. Long Night’s Journey into Day
Tom Englund – vocals
Nick van Dyk – guitars
Sean Andrews – bass
Chris Quirarte – drums
Vikram Shankar – keyboards
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Variety is the spice of life, so they say. Someone might want to mention this to Legion of the Damned. Picking up right were Venom left off last week in the the generic stakes, "Slaves of the Shadow Realm" churns out largely unvaried, unremarkable and unmemorable thrash metal with the odd splash of death and black metal smatterings here and there. To give you some idea of how hard going this is I have to wait three whole tracks to here a lead guitar! I love good chug fest as much as the next man but when it is the only flavour in the dish its impact on the palette diminishes quickly.
I can't honestly tell if the album is supposed to be one long song accidentally edited to give gaps to give the illusion of it being several tracks? Some tracks just start very lazy (Slaves of the Southern Cross) whilst others just allude to some slight break of pace from the previous track before going off on the exact same pace, in the exact same direction (Nocturnal Commando).
The frustration is that when they get it at least half right and vary things just a touch, they can put together some enjoyable pieces (Warhounds of Hades) but the memorability factor still struggles to register much above a 0, even in these moments.
By far the pinnacle of the record is "Black Banners in Flames", a menacing thrasher of a track that allows for some relent in the ferocity stakes to apply some melody to create that aforementioned menace. Otherwise I feel that I have had a sub par meal at a restaurant. The chefs are perfectly competent (no Michelin stars here though folks) and the ingredients are all of reasonable quality, sourced responsibly enough, but there's little attempt at seasoning and so everything just seems bland. It sounds like the vocalist is holding this together really. Swinkel's performance on all tracks is obviously a notch up from his band mates' which is a shame because he deserves better really.
Painfully, I streamed the version with two bonus tracks on, which didn't help me digest this any better. That having been said "Priest Hunt" is way stronger than most of the regular tracks available here.
2/5 (2019 is not starting well)
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At the start of pulling this list together I had thought it to have been a "light" year for BM releases. It was only when I got into compiling my "Best of 2018" that I realised it had in fact been quite a good year. 2018 in BM saw the return of some well established acts, some of them doing what they have always done well whereas others took to the recording studios minus long standing members. When all is said and done, I think it all turned out rather well.
It is a Top 10 folks and sadly not everyone has a place, so appreciative nods in the general direction of:
Shining "X-Varg Utan Flock"; Alghazanth "Eight Coffin Nails"; Summoning "With Doom We Come"; Varathron "Patriarchs of Evil" and Watain "Trident Wolf Eclipse".
10. Panopticon "The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness I & II"
By far the latest release on the list in terms of me catching up with it. Usual atmospheric BM goodness on disc 1 and not too shabby folk/bluegrass/dark americana on disc 2. Does grow on me the more I listen.
9. Wallachia "Monumental Heresy"
A recent revisit to this album boosted it into the list. Those lush orchestrations supply a great foundation to those tremolo riffs and acoustic passages throughout "Monumental Heresy". Nice work.
8. Wiegedood "De Doden Hebben Het Goed II"
Aggression is the name of the game here, as death and anger are thrust at you from every corner. Can pass you by completely if you don't give it proper attention, and doing so will reap rich rewards as there is so much going on here beneath the surface.
7. Die Kunst Der Finsternis "Queen of Owls"
Another fine slab of vampiric, gothic and horrific BM from Sweden's finest lord of the night. This truly is the art of darkness at work right here.
6. Craft "White Noise and Black Metal"
Dodgy record title aside, Craft return with a real class release some seven years after their last outing. Catchy and scathing at the same time, the Swedes fifth full length make it two back to back releases from the country of IKEA into my top 10.
5. Drudkh "They Often See Dreams About the Spring"
Still no bad releases from Drudkh after 15 years of atmospheric BM. The atmosphere is just as prevalent as ever on release number 11, built into the intelligent song structures and mature riffing and growling we have all become ever so familiar with. There is just no getting away from the feeling of vastness on this record as it swallows you up track by track. Sadly this is also its main flaw as the attention required to fully enjoy this is a little too intense for my aged metal brain, otherwise it could have placed higher.
4. Immortal "Northern Chaos Gods"
Abbath who? I mean this is one the most Immortal sounding Immortal albums ever, right? Showing Demonaz as the real songwriting force behind Immortal, "Northern Chaos Gods" is just chock full of FUCKING RIFFS MAN! I mean play this in a dark room, get up to switch the light and you will trip over at least 4 riffs whilst trying to get to the light switch! They have song called "Blacker of Worlds" on here, I mean if that doesn't get your average corpse paint laden BM teenager wet then there's no hope for humanity.
3. Marduk "Viktoria"
Ok, this caught me completely off guard. I mean, pants down, around the ankles, pooing in a bag, in a forest in hi-vis work gear - caught off guard! Now I have stopped shitting in the woods like some giant luminous bear I am just having the time of my life listening to the short, sharp yet thoroughly enjoyable blasturbation of Marduk. Cold and melancholic melodies swirl throughout the album and fill your head like for days afterwards.
2. Sargeist "Unbound"
Another band that simply can do no wrong in my book is Sargeist. I am at the point now where I listen to each new release with trepidation, just in case this is the one that drops a bollock the weight of Finland itself as the band have decided to go all Euro Pop! Thankfully, "Unbound" is most definitely not Euro Pop. It is a furiously trve representation of Sargeist's traditional sound that is complemented superbly by melodic stylings from a largely new and reinvigorated line up. No Sargeist entry at Eurovision this year folks!
1. Winterfylleth "The Harrowing of Heirdom"
So, controversially not an actual BM record but most definitely a release by a BM band. I can't quite put into sufficient wording just how much I enjoy this record of acoustic storytelling. I sing along to every line, I get teary at every lush piece of instrumentation and atmosphere and I smile content as a Bond villain at every warm tone that washes forth from my speakers/headphones. An earthy, emotional and endearing experience that sits proudly atop of my list for 2018.