Tom Englund: Vocals
Nicolas van Dyk: Guitars / Keyboards
Bernie Versailles: Guitars
Sean Andrews: Bass Guitar
Chris Quirarte: Drums
Vikram Shankar: Keyboards
"If there's a consistent message to Redemption's music, it's that life is a struggle and there is pain and fear and doubt, but, ultimately, it is a thing of beauty and wonderment. If you push through the struggle, the rewards of that process itself, along with what you find on the other side, are joyous and a fantastic gift," states guitarist/keyboardist Nick van Dyk, and with Long Night's Journey Into Day, the seventh full-length from the LA based progressive powerhouse, this has never been clearer. Taking the title of Eugene O'Neill's play Long Day's Journey Into Night, which focuses on the decay of a family that's plagued by addiction, Redemption have turned it inside out, and made it their own. "Inverting the phrasing of the title is really what Redemption's message is about. It's a long night. It's a journey, and at times it's a struggle. But there is daybreak."
The follow-up to 2016's The Art Of Loss, which van Dyk counts as amongst Redemption's very best, Long Night's Journey Into Day is inarguably the sound of a band at the height of their powers. As followers of Redemption are also aware, it is the first full-length since the departure of vocalist Ray Alder, and features the debut of Evergrey vocalist Tom Englund. "We were unable to tour 'The Art Of Loss' because Ray was not able to actively participate in Redemption any longer, so we decided it was time to part company shortly after its release. Ray is a dear friend, and I have nothing but respect and love for him and what we created together. But at some point, it just became untenable." Of course, Alder's shoes were not exactly going to be easy to fill, and it was essential that his successor be someone who would immediately command respect, as well as somebody who could exceed expectations when it came to performance. Moreover, it was integral that they had someone who could fully invest in the lyrical themes concerning the human condition, which have always been central to Redemption. So, the fact that from the beginning of his career Englund has penned lyrics about feelings of doubt, fear and despair with an unshakable emotional authenticity made him the perfect choice. "Because of the power of his voice and the emotion he brings, this isn't going to be a shocking transition for fans. Tom's also a very versatile vocalist, and being a songwriter, he has a tremendous melodic and compositional sensibility, and on top of that, we've known each other for many years, and there is a level of not just professional respect but personal friendship to it all."
With the band - rounded out by bassist Sean Andrews and drummer Chris Quirarte - having built their sound around the combination of aggressive, heavy riffing with strong melodic sensibilities imbued with a certain cinematic quality and delivered with urgency and heartfelt emotion, Long Night's Journey Into Day takes its cues from its predecessors while pushing that sound ever forward. While known for penning grandiose epics, van Dyk never sets out to write long songs for the sake of it, and though boasting a fair share of lengthy tracks - including the powerful title track, which closes out the record - there is something very direct about Long Night's Journey Into Day, which increases its emotional power. "I never want a song to feel like it drags, whether it's four minutes or fourteen minutes long, and often, the driving force behind some of our longest songs isn't the music but the words. If you're dealing with a topic that starts in a dark place and tells a story of struggle and meditates on what it is to be human, and then ends in a place of positivity - which a lot of our music does - it's not credible to have a verse where somebody is in a dark place and then two lines later everything is fine. Like the real-life situations that we're talking about, whether it be recovering from failure, dealing with the end of a chapter in our lives, coming to terms with one's mortality or experiencing a betrayal and struggling through its impact, whatever it might be, these things are a process of discovery and contemplation and reflection and they take time to unfold."
Many such themes are touched upon over the course of the record's ten tracks, all of which are as thoughtful as they are relatable. To reference but a few, "Impermanent" is about learning to adapt, and realizing that life is about growth and change and making the best of the moment, while "Eyes You Dare Not Face In Dreams" focuses on the doubts that fill the void when one's integrity is lacking. Then there is "The Echo Chamber", the second political song of the band's seventeen-year career, focusing on how social media has led people to only engage with those of the same perspective, and the loss of emphasis on learning from those with different views. "Indulge In Color", which van Dyk counts amongst the top three or four songs the band has penned, "is a sequel to 'Black & White World' [from 2009's 'Snowfall On Judgment Day'], which is arguably the best song I've ever written. Life is hard, but it's a thing of tremendous beauty, and it's up to you to live it to the fullest. Like the song 'Perfect' on 'This Mortal Coil' (2011) says: suck the marrow out of every day." The new record's title track also embraces and advances this theme. "We see a lot of dreams and hoped-for-outcomes dashed by our own failings or by factors outside our control, but dreaming is essential to realizing the beauty of life. Life is amazing and depressing and carefree and terrifying and full of hope and love and full of fear and doubt…But it is, in the final calculus, beautiful and an incredible gift. And we must keep on dreaming."
With producer Jacob Hansen - whose credits include releases from the likes of Primal Fear, Epica, Volbeat, Amaranthe, and Evergrey - on board, the guitars and bass were tracked in van Dyk's home studio, drum tracks at Quirarte's home studio, and Englund tracked the majority of his vocals in Sweden, with a ten-hour session in LA all that was required to put the finishing touches on his "phenomenal" performance. Absent from the band's lineup is lead guitarist Bernie Versailles, who suffered an aneurysm in 2014, and has since been focusing on his recovery. "Bernie is happy, living with family, and continuing to recover; he's still a very musical person, but he isn't at this time up to recording and performing. We do miss him terribly, on a day-to-day basis, and there has never been a kinder, nicer, more guileless person in the Redemption universe. We of course all continue to wish for his full recovery, good health and happiness." Long Night's Journey Into Day does however see the quartet collaborating with guitarists Simone Mularoni (DGM/Empyrios), and the legendary Chris Poland, both of whom also supplied astounding leads on The Art Of Loss. "Simone is an incredibly gifted lead guitarist who played his ass off on 'The Art of Loss' and does the same on this record, and Chris Poland is simply one of the most unique and talented musicians in the history of metal. His musical sensibilities are singular in this genre, and they push our music into areas that no other guitarist in metal could do. We are very lucky to have him involved in a second record of ours." Alongside these longtime collaborators they also recruited keyboardist Vikram Shankar, who van Dyk asserts "may be the most talented musician I have ever met. Tom introduced me to him and we got along well immediately. He has a similar approach to music in terms of voicings and how keyboards add to music in the right way. Vik joined the project at the eleventh hour but made important contributions nonetheless; I expect he will play a more significant role in Redemption in the future."
When it came to backing up the music with visuals, the band once again turned to a longtime collaborator, Travis Smith, whose humbling resumé includes records by bands such as Art Of Defiance, Opeth and Iced Earth. "Most of the time, I will have a fairly good idea of what I want the cover to be and he will take it from there. Here, all I had was the title at first. Travis came up with this wonderful front cover that looks almost like a complex watercolor painting, showing a rickety wooden staircase spiraling towards a brighter dawn, and as the production of the record dragged out, I had the idea of complementing the front with a back cover showing a side-view of a man descending the stairs with hands trying to trip him or drag him down, or otherwise prevent his safe passage. It's a good metaphor for our own failings, life's curveballs and the actions of others who don't have our best interests in mind."
With live dates across the US in the offing - including a headlining slot at Atlanta's Progpower Festival in the fall, which may be recorded for a live album and/or DVD - van Dyk is enthused to play the new songs, and for people to hear Englund's renditions of their older ones. "We're so excited to take this music on the road – it's been too long since we were able to play out. And then shortly after Progpower, I imagine I'll return to writing new material. I've got some concepts for songs forming already, and my goal is to have much less time pass in between records this time out."