It’s safe to say that Heavy Metal and spirituality have a complicated relationship. Generally, metallists tend to skew dark, focusing on grim themes like torment, guilt, misery, suffering, torture, purgatory, hellfire, war, and religious atrocities. Many Metal bands have made it their business to be virulently anti-Christian, or boldly pro-Satan. Polish Heavy Metal band Preludium take a less partisan approach on Redemption, pondering matters of the soul from a philosophical distance over their stately blend of Death and Black Metal.
Redemption’s strongest offering is its pervasive sense of atmosphere, immediately discernible on opening track “Soul Torment”. The impression is of dim orange light and crunching undergrowth, tendrils of green-brown moss hanging from the looming canopy, fallen trees gone soft with decay crumbling underfoot and dark shapes slithering beneath wet leaves. Guitars lumber and stomp, squeal and decompose. Drums pound and splash. In the midst of the ritual: a voice – Guitarist/vocalist Lukasz Dziamarski – the master of ceremonies, projecting his oratory in a gruff bellow.
The lesson plan is curiously orthodox, emphasizing the horrific consequences of immorality and the necessity of spiritual self-awareness and self-renewal. The immutability of universal law is a recurring theme, as is the notion of individual morality. Those looking for an album in which God is slain, chopped up and buried will have to look elsewhere.
Redemption proceeds according to a general form. The guitars march through riffs in a mid-tempo fashion as Dziamarski howls out the lyrics. Preludium advertise bilingualism in Death Metal and Black Metal. This transformation is well-executed in places, such as “Incarnations”, where the band morphs into a careening juggernaut – the musicians barely keeping pace with some urgent imperative and carrying the listener along in their mad sprint. However in many instances drummer Piotr Ungeheuer blasts off, but the other band members do not cooperate, staying firmly in their rhythmic pocket. Not all blasts are Black Metal blasts to be sure, but there is a feeling of missed opportunities. There is precious little of Black Metal’s signature loping momentum – that ghastly long-form screaming across dark countrysides – the precious rush that would make Redemption feel like more like a dramatic adventure and less like a morbid lecture series.
As a Death Metal album, Redemption is very solid. All the ingredients are present. Ungeheuer’s drumming is fast and fierce, the guitars have a good sense of interplay, calling and responding across the sound field. Bassist Marcin Deszcz does what he needs to do. There are heavy passages that crush the soul. There are moments of drama and despair. There are times of reflective, eerie calm. However, Preludium’s musical elements are not without flaws. Ungeheuer’s cymbals all sound small and sharp, which is a detriment in groovier, slower moments. The guitars often sound oddly subdued and unassertive in their higher, more melodic tangents.
Perhaps Redemption’s greatest weakness is a sense that the band aren’t really playing together. Metal is known for its demanding standards of precision, but Preludium seem so concerned with pinning their individual parts precisely to the tempo that they sacrifice synergy – the organic pushes and pulls and exchanges of energy that happen between talented musicians playing in the same room. This makes Redemption sound technically impeccable, but also somewhat stiff and lifeless. That is not to say that there are not moments of compelling harmony – “Circle of Life” has a wonderfully crushing march section where the accented songwriting comes blissfully alive. But these moments are few and far between. For the most part the elements of Redemption sound layered and stacked, not felt; the whole sounds exactly like the sum of its parts.
Like the frail mortals whose perils it explores, Redemption has spiritual strengths and mortal weaknesses. The mood of the album is very immersive and strong, the musicians are very precise and the riffs are numerous and enjoyable. There are intricacies to the compositions which assert themselves more and more with each listen. The lyrics are thought-provoking and well served by Dziamarski’s vocals. On the other hand, the band sounds stiff, and the songs are generally rearrangements of the same elements. They do not build on each other in a narrative sense, nor do they possess much in the way of catchiness or variation.
There is plenty to like on Redemption, but Preludium need to take more chances if they want to deliver something truly compelling. This journey through Heaven and Hell can sometimes feel more like a trudge through unadventurous songwriting. In an album with grand thematic stakes like ruination and deliverance, agony and ecstasy, it is a little disappointing to hear the music struggle to rise beyond the fleshy encumbrances of well-executed, but ultimately corporeal Death Metal.
Label: Transcending Obscurity
Avantgenre: Spiritualized Death And Possible Rebirth Metal
Official site: http://www.transcendingobscurity.com/band/14-preludium.aspx
Review online since: 20.03.2014 / 00:52:17
01 – Soul Torment
02 – Altars Of Redemption
03 – Incarnations
04 – Root Of Suffering
05 – Circle Of Life
06 – The Seven Gates Of Hell
07 – Destiny Of Mortals
08 – Arena Of Souls
09 – Hatred Breeds Suffering
10 – Sins Of Mankind
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