Redemption - 10/10/2009

REDEMPTION is one of the leading progressive metal bands in the world today, a fact which is further solidified with the release of their much anticipated fourth full-length release, ´Snowfall On Judgment Day´, which came out recently via Inside Out Music. The CD follows up 2005's breakthrough release ‘The Fullness of Time’, the band's first with Fates Warning frontman Ray Alder, which generated tremendous critical and popular acclaim.

 

The progressive power-metal band Redemption was formed in Los Angeles, California in late 2000 by guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter Nicolas van Dyk. Following a chance meeting at a live show in Hollywood, van Dyk became close friends with legendary vocalist Ray Alder (Fates Warning) and eventually collaborated on a song on Alder's first solo record with his band Engine. Van Dyk asked Alder to produce a CD of van Dyk's more progressive metal music, and the two of them assembled a group of players to record the project, including Bernie Versailles (Agent Steel, Engine) on guitar and Jason Rullo (Symphony X) on drums. Rick Mythiasin (Taraxacum / ex-Steel Prophet) signed on to be the vocalist for the project, and Alder along with Fates Warning drummer Mark Zonder contributed guest performances. The band was signed to Sensory Records and released its self-titled debut in the summer of 2002.

 

In December 2006, Redemption signed a multi-album deal with Inside Out for the worldwide release of its new material. In April 2007, the band released ´The Origins of Ruin´. Following in the footsteps of ´The Fullness of Time´ (2005), the CD continued the unique combination of high energy, aggressive prog power with strong melodies, and the production of Tommy Newton. The band added its permanent touring keyboardist, Greg Hosharian, shortly before the release of ´The Origins of Ruin´, in preparation for live shows in the US and abroad.

 

In the summer of 2007, the band was selected by the definitive Progressive Metal band, Dream Theater, as direct support for the entirety of Dream Theater's North American tour. After performing 26 shows for tens of thousands of fans, Redemption capped off this tour with a performance at the 8th annual ProgPower festival in Atlanta. This performance, to a sold-out house, was captured in a five camera shoot and in March 2009 it was released as a live DVD / CD package entitled ´Frozen in the Moment: Live in Atlanta´.

 

Throughout spring 2009 the band finalized ´Snowfall On Judgment Day´, which was mixed by the well-known producer Tommy Hansen (Helloween, Jorn Lande, Circus Maximus). The album was mixed and mastered by Tommy Newton, who produced the group's last two CDs, at Area 51 Studios in Celle, Germany. The artwork was once again created by Travis Smith. ´Snowfall On Judgment Day´ features a more mature songwriting than ever before and shows the band taking several steps beyond the quality of their previous output, and standing out from the rest of the crowd in the progressive metal scene with their unique brand of heavy, melodic and emotionally powerful music. The legendary James Labrie (Dream Theater) also performs a duet guest vocal spot on the song “Another Day Dies.”

 

On top of that, guitarist / songwriter Nicolas van Dyk has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which he describes as "a particularly bad form of blood cancer which is generally considered incurable and which has a five-year survival rate of 34%."

 

Nicolas' lengthy online post regarding his condition and prognosis can be found at this location.

 

 

It appears there is much to talk about and so we tracked down guitarist / keyboardist / songwriter Nicolas van Dyk to ask him some questions. Here you can read what he had to say.

 

First of all, I just read that you were was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I read the story on your online posting  and I was quite shocked to hear about  this "summer vacation" as you call it yourself. I would like to wish you and your wife all the best and we all hope for a full recovery and that you'll win this battle. Hang in there!

 

Nick: Thanks, Eugene.  I appreciate the kind words.  It was not a lot of fun, I can tell you that, but I’m still standing.  J

 

Despite all of this I would like to congratulate you with your new album ‘Snowfall on Judgment Day’ which will be out soon, of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it.

 

How did you launch into writing material for ‘Snowfall on Judgment Day’ and how much time did you spend on the songs?

 

Nick: The songs came together over a fairly long period of time – close to eighteen months, really.  Of course in between we had a tour and a live DVD, so that explains some of the delay!  J

 

I did some writing before we left, some writing while we were on tour (I brought a laptop and an M-Box), and the rest of it after the DVD was finally finished, so most of the writing really happened in the first half of 2008.


Which approach did you choose to create this album, did you go for a more raw exposition.. Or something more reminiscent of your previous other works, or something all together different?

 

Nick: I don’t think I had any particular approach, other than I wanted to continue to push the combination of very aggressive, riff-oriented, heavy music with strong melodies.  Not on every song, of course, because that would sound too monotonous, but we’ve pushed the envelope on a couple of tracks.  I guess the only other thing I wanted to try to do, apart from just getting better and better at songwriting, was to have a slightly more varied collection of songs in terms of tempo and stuff like that.  The last CD was almost all one tempo, other than two tracks.


Did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?

 

Nick: Some ideas came together quickly, but most require dedicated composition.  There’s a lot going on in our music.  Even on this CD, where there aren’t as many long stretches of technical stuff, the verses are very busy. 

 

What comes first, lyrics or melodies?
 

Nick: Almost always melodies.  Usually when the music is finished, I will go through and sing a rough melody line with nonsense words like “na na na” or “la la la” and then I’ll fit words to the melody.  Occasionally, the two will come to mind at the same time, though, and when that happens I’ll write the music around it.

 

 

What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘Snowfall on Judgment Day’, any elements you definitely wanted to include on the album?

 

Nick: Not really, other than the basic ideas I mentioned above: a bit more variety, a heavier sound overall and in particular the combination of heavy riffing with strong melody.

 

How can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the typical writing process like for Redemption? For example, is it more a group process or did some people write more songs than others?

 

Nick: For better or worse, I write all the songs.  I will generally finish writing the record and send the pro-production rough mixes out to the rest of the guys, who sometimes have comments or changes.  Then when we record, Chris and Sean and Greg will all have ideas that they will add or change.  Usually I have very rudimentary ideas of what I’m hearing on drums or bass or keys, and the guys will change things and make it their own.  In this way, the pieces reflect everybody’s contributions, although I’m the sole writer.

 

Could you please describe the implications of the title ‘Snowfall on Judgment Day’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?

 

Nick: For the previous two CD´s, I had a definite connection between the cover and the lyrics.  For this CD, there’s no connection between the title or the artwork and the lyrics.  The title was something that I liked the cadence of – just the sound of the words and how they flowed together, and it has a kind of mysterious connotation.

 

Can you give us a short explanation of what the lyrics are about, is there a story behind them?

 

Nick: I decided a long time ago I never wanted to write a song about trolls, dragons, or worshipping dark forces in the cold Carpathian foothills.  J   These things just seem juvenile or pathetic.  Redemption’s songs are about human frailty, more or less.  Weakness and challenges that we face in dealing with ourselves and with others.  Yet there is always still reason to hope.  This duality in our lyrics goes along with the combination of the heavy music and strong melody.

 

How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?

 

Nick: It’s a nice plus, but it’s not critical.  We aren’t a “message” band per se, although there is a song on the new CD that is probably the only political song we’ll ever do (Leviathan Rising).  Many of our fans find, though, that the lyrics reinforce the emotion of the music and I do think it makes for a more powerful connection with the listener if they are able to enjoy both.

 

How did the recording process proceed? Did you work differently this time than you did with your previous works? How much time did you spend in the studio?

 

Nick: Basically, I will compose everything in my home studio to a click track, and record a very simple bass line, scratch vocals, and some keys (sometimes I will record all the keys, sometimes I leave it more open).  Once we’re happy with the pre-production, we’ll go into another studio to track drums.  Then back in my home studio we’ll track the bass, add keys and track vocals.  This gives us as much time as we need to get the performances we want.  The drums we track in usually 2-3 days; the rest of it is done at a fairly leisurely pace.

 

Once everything is done, the raw guitar tracks are “re-amped” in a studio where the CD is mixed.

 

The album was produced by Tommy Hansen, what made him the perfect man for the job?

 

Nick: We have done our last two records with Tommy Newton, and we started out this one with him as well, but we had a deadline and his schedule was pretty hectic.  I wasn’t able to get a product that I was happy with and he had to move on to another project.  We could have waited for him to free up, but I wanted to make sure we hit our release goal of getting this out in time for the ProgPower festival in the US.  So we checked around on our shortlist of other producers, and Tommy Hansen had time in his schedule.  His work with Pagan’s Mind, Circus Maximus and others was very solid so I had a high degree of confidence that we’d be pleased with the mix.  He was very easy to work with.

 

 

In which elements on the new album can one clearly hear his visions and ideas?

 

Nick: Most of the record, between my initial thoughts and Tommy Newton’s ideas, was pretty much settled before Tommy Hansen was involved, but he did add some things here and there to it.  I think the biggest difference is in the overall sound of the record, which has a brightness and crispness to it that I like.

 

Can you elaborate on James LaBrie’s guest appearance on the album?

 

Nick: When we were touring, James was particularly gracious and told me he really liked what Redemption was doing.  I asked him if he’d be interested in doing a guest appearance and he was totally fired up about it.  I didn’t write that song for him, and I didn’t really even know what type of guest appearance would work, but when the songs were all finished, I knew the verses in “Another Day Dies” would sound great with James’ delivery, and the idea for the duet during the chorus came to me as well, and I sent him the pre-production demo and asked him what he thought.  He loved the idea, and here we are.

 

‘The Origins Of Ruin’ was already a step forward, but ‘Snowfall on Judgment Day’ is actually the first album on which Redemption shows its full capabilities: What are your thoughts on this statement?

 

Nick: First, thank you for the compliment.  I do hope that I am becoming a better and better songwriter with each release.  I’m not sure that we are doing things technically that are more challenging on this CD, but I do think that we play with a cohesiveness that can only come about from spending a couple of months together in close quarters on tour.  That definitely comes through in the songs, I think.

 

What is the utmost important ingredient for a song?
 

Nick: Melody.  If you hum a song, you hum the melody.  Everything else follows.

 

Do you have any favorites on the album?
 

Nick: “Black and White World” and “Love Kills Us All / Life in One Day” are my favorites.  “Walls” is another good one, though stylistically very different from those two.  I like them all, though.

 

Have you received any feedback on the album yet?

 

Nick: Yes, and it’s been uniformly positive from the critics and fans that have heard it so far.  It’s very gratifying, obviously, and hopefully our audience will really enjoy our work.

 

Are third party opinions (press, fans, etc.) on your music important to you? Or are your music and band the only things that matter?

 

Nick: Third party opinions are hugely important.  I think all artists, if they are honest with themselves about it, are somewhat insecure.  It’s great to have validation of your work. 
 

Which element of the CD are you most proud of?

 

Nick: The last track, “Love Kills Us All / Life in One Day”.  I think the songwriting there is quite strong and the melodies are compelling.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics?
 

Nick: I am a pretty normal guy, I think.  I’m not really motivated by anything other than the need to create.  I am stirred more by a melody or a song structure than by lyrics.  As I said, most of our songs are about human frailty.  These are things that everybody can relate to. 

 

The two exceptions to this, on the new CD, are the song “Keep Breathing” which is a very specific song about my daughter, and the song “Leviathan Rising” which is influenced by socioeconomics. In particular, government encroaching on freedoms, both social and economic.

 

With several albums under your belt, how far has you career surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?
 

Nick: Well, when we began I had no expectations whatsoever.  Now, we’ve released four studio CDs and a live DVD and toured all over the US and Canada with Dream Theater – it’s been a remarkable journey so far. 

 

I think the most rewarding part of being in the band is simply being able to create good music with good friends.  If I wasn’t enjoying it, I’d stop.  There’s not enough money in it to justify expending effort if we weren’t enjoying ourselves.

 

What is your opinion on the progressive metal scene these days? What do you think about the overload of bands at the moment and is there anything missing in the scene?

 

Nick: There are many more good musicians than there are good songwriters.  I can think of a dozen prog metal CDs where the musicians are amazing but I listen to it for an hour and I can’t recall a single memorable riff or melody line.

 

The internet, and the falling cost of recording, has made it possible for a lot of small bands to be heard, and that’s a good thing.  But the truly great bands are still few and far between.  But having more people taking their instrument seriously, priding themselves on technique, and listening to good music is certainly a good thing for the future. 

 

What makes Redemption different from the other bands out there?

 

Nick: I think we are much heavier than most prog metal, and the combination of this heaviness with the strong melodies that we have is pretty unique.  That, and there’s a feel to our music that I have described before as “emotional urgency” which I think we have that sets us apart from most bands.

 

What can we expect from Redemption in the near future, I think touring Europe might be difficult?
 

Nick: The economics of putting together a European tour are challenging, particularly in this economy, but we’re always thinking about how we might be able to pull it off.  I have some ideas about that as well, but they’re too early to talk about.  We probably won’t be playing out until 2010 because Ray is working on a new Fates Warning record right now, and I have always maintained that I want to respect Fates Warning first and foremost and never have Redemption interfere with it.  But we do look forward to playing out, and hopefully getting over to Europe again!  Meanwhile, I have started putting together some very rough ideas for the next CD.

 

Anything left to say to our readers?
 

Nick: As always, thanks so much for your interest and support.  I’ve got some relatives over there in a little town called Wijchen near Nijmegen and my father was born in Amsterdam…although for some reason I’m a lot shorter, darker, and less good looking than most Dutch people! J

 

Thanks for your time and good luck with everything!

Eugene Straver

 

 

 

Members:

Ray Alder - Vocals

Nick van Dyk - Guitars, Keyboards

Bernie Versailles - Guitars

Sean Andrews - Bass

Chris Quirarte - Drums

Greg Hosharian - Keyboards 

  

Albums:

(2003) - Redemption

(2005) - The Fullness of Time

(2007) - The Origins Of Ruin

(2009) - Snowfall on Judgment Day

 

(2009) - Frozen In The Moment: Live In Atlanta (DVD)