It's been quite a prog metal ride these past couple of weeks, what with CIRCUS MAXIMUS' "The 1st Chapter" flooring me with out-of-this-world melodies and the second release from REDEMPTION, "The Fullness of Time", reminding me of the enormous talent of main man Nicolas van Dyk. That both albums were released by Sensory says a lot about the label's nose for quality prog metal. Maybe I'm becoming a prog head, or maybe great music is just great music. But on to a review of REDEMPTION's "The Fullness of Time".
I've a vague recollection of reviewing 2003's self-titled debut album and thinking it a more than adequate prog affair, though I don't remember being blown away by it. It's hard to tell why that may have been, but digging it out of the stack and spinning it again substantially raised my level of appreciation for the disc. I'm now thoroughly impressed by it. Even so, I found "The Fullness of Time" to be a superior effort, though it has little to do with a level-jump in musicianship, the song writing skills of Van Dyk, or the lineup changes. The tunefulness of the album just resonated with me more so than is the case with the debut. Some of it has to do with FATES WARNING's Ray Alder, producer of the first album, taking the lead vocal reins from ex-STEEL PROPHET member Rick Mythiasin. I not only prefer Alder's vocals, but I believe he made the already compelling melodies even stronger with his powerful delivery. Beyond those two factors though, it is without hesitation that I can say if you purchase "The Fullness of Time" and enjoy it that you should also purchase the debut album (or vice versa). Both are finely crafted progressive metal albums.
While we're making comparisons, both albums include a lengthy four-part opus. The debut album begins with one ("Redemption", parts I – IV), while "The Fullness of Time" ends with the involved titled track, which is broken down into four sections: "I, Rage", "Despair", "Release", and "Transcendence". Unsurprisingly, both are amazing compositions, yet there is an added measure of beauty and melody on the latter that is in part due to Alder's stamp. I'll stop short of saying that one is "better" than the other, as it's probably got more do with personal preference than anything else.
As for the remainder of "The Fullness of Time", the tracks "Parker's Eyes" and the 16-minute "Sapphire" are standout tracks, the former my favorite from either disc. Van Dyk's ardent lyrics about the innocence of childhood before the horrific events of our world (9/11, etc) taint a young and impressionable mind are superb. Coupled with the resplendent melody and Alder's touching vocals, the song forces me to drop whatever I'm doing at the time so I can give it my undivided attention. I still can't get it out of my head. In the case of "Sapphire", it's a simple matter of soulful playing, epic delivery, glorious tunefulness, and — you guessed it — Alder's chops.
Between REDEMPTION's "The Fullness of Time" and CIRCUS MAXIMUS' "The 1st Chapter", Sensory has given me two albums that could very well end up on my top-albums-of-2005 list. Is a third stunning Sensory release coming my way at some point in the future?