Cancer Not Derailing Redemption's Van Dyk
By BRIAN HEATON
There is a saying that songwriters are more creative when they go through tragic or difficult events, as they tend to inspire music. For Redemption mastermind Nick van Dyk, while the saying may be true, he'd prefer to live without the experiences.
Diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma -- a rare form of blood cancer many physicians believe is incurable -- in Nov. 2008, Redemption's songwriter and guitarist battled the disease while finishing work on the progressive metal band's latest album, Snowfall on Judgment Day.
While van Dyk admitted his fight with Multiple Myeloma had indeed spiked his creativity, he preferred not to elaborate, revealing only that the subject "[would be] a major topic of conversation after the release of Redemption's next CD."
Despite being tight-lipped about what his crusade against the disease inspired musically, van Dyk was very open about his daughter Parker's struggle with Cone Dystrophy, a genetic eye condition that results in a permanent loss of central vision. In "Keep Breathing" on Snowfall, van Dyk describes his frustration at not being able to help cure Parker and the admiration he has for the strength she's shown.
"I wanted to do something to make people aware of this condition and also to serve as a signpost to [Parker] one day of how much her parents love her," van Dyk explained. "As a man, it's challenging. I am by nature a 'Type A' personality and a problem solver. Sometimes there is no solution. Right now, one seems elusive."
Although that was as far as van Dyk would talk about how his family's medical woes have affected Redemption artistically, he was adamant that the band was extremely proud of Snowfall and fully committed to supporting the record.
Released in October on InsideOut Music, the band's fourth album is chock full of the aggressive riffs, time changes and soaring melodies the band's fans have come to expect. Cuts such as "Fistful of Sand" and the lead track, "Peel" are aggressive numbers that showcase incredible musicianship, while Redemption's trademark progressive sound is highlighted in "Black and White World" and the closing epic, "Love Kills Us All / Life in One Day."
Many of the tracks on Snowfall have a more melodic feel in comparison to those on prior albums, something van Dyk felt was a natural progression in his songwriting evolution.
"I think the songs have a more organic quality to them because we know each other better musically and because the songs were written more naturally, rather than being assembled in a more mathematical sense," Redemption's leader explained.
Fronted by vocalist Ray Alder (Fates Warning) and rounded out by lead guitarist Bernie Versailles, bassist Sean Andrews, keyboardist Greg Hosharian and drummer Chris Quirarte, Redemption has been one of progressive metal's most heralded underground bands for just shy of a decade.
Gaining some worldwide attention in 2007 opening for progressive metal giants Dream Theater and filming a live DVD (Frozen in the Moment – Live in Atlanta) at the ProgPower festival that same year, Redemption is still looking for a breakthrough to a larger audience. While extremely thankful for the support fans have given the band, van Dyk still wishes the band would gain name recognition.
"It is undeniably a bit frustrating and puzzling that we aren't better known," the guitarist admitted. "We live in the Internet age when everything there is to know about a band can be found in an hour online and yet we remain pretty obscure even within our own genre."
When pressed on what the Dream Theater tour did for the band, van Dyk stressed it was a great tour and how much the band appreciated the opportunity to play live regularly and get in front of thousands of people on a nightly basis.
"In the past, I would have assumed that we'd enjoy a large increase in awareness and sales, but unfortunately downloading is going to eat into most of that," van Dyk lamented. "Hopefully our music has reached more people and I expect that's the case."
A Little Help From Their Friends
One thing Redemption's 2007 tour did was put them in close contact with Dream Theater vocalist James Labrie. The legendary singer was impressed by Redemption and ultimately sang a duet with Alder on "Another Day Dies" – one of the highlights from Snowfall.
It is the third time both singers have appeared on an album together. The first was in 1991 on Fates Warning's Parallels, with Labrie lending his voice to "Life in Still Water." The second was Alder coming out for a live performance of "Pull Me Under" from the Dream Theater official bootleg Los Angeles, California 5/18/98.
According to van Dyk, Labrie approached him during the tour to express how much he enjoyed Redemption's music and van Dyk asked Labrie if he'd be interested in doing a guest spot on his band's new record. Although Labrie accepted right away, van Dyk had no idea what song would ultimately be the one.
"I didn't write that song for him and I didn't really even know what type of guest appearance would work," van Dyk revealed. "But when the songs were all finished, I knew the verses in 'Another Day Dies' would sound great with James' delivery."
For any band, however, the true test of its chemistry is playing live and that's something Redemption is eager to continue doing. Van Dyk was firm that the band plans to play in the United States and Europe to support Snowfall, although extended treks are uncertain unless it is another opportunity like the band had in 2007.
Regardless of the group's highs and lows, van Dyk is proud at what he and his bandmates have been able to accomplish with Redemption.
"If you would have told me 13 years ago that I'd become good friends with so many of my musical heroes, I'd have thought you were crazy," van Dyk said. "I've put together a band of wonderful musicians who are also great people and some of my closest friends. It's been a great ride so far and I hope we have the chance to tour again."
For more information on Redemption, visit www.redemptionweb.com. All concert photos courtesy of Redemption and InsideOut Music.
Copyright 2009, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.