“I’ve been sifting through the pieces/ Searching for a pattern/ Trying to find some hidden sense of purpose/ Going down blind alleys/ Has me putting out my eyes/ ’cause I don’t have the will to see what’s there”. Redemption thunders into “Snowfall on Judgment Day” with the immensely thought-provoking track, “Peel”. This track sets a foundation for the rest of the album with the question, “Do I really want to believe what I know is true?”
You see, the lyrics present us with a very confused man: a man that has built up defenses against what he really sees and feels in the world around him. “Face covered/ I’m shutting out the world/ Retreating in this shell/ And waiting for the blackness”. Do we really have the gumption to believe what we see is true? Or will we retreat into our shells of seemingly impenetrable facts, laws, and philosophies? Mankind sets up all these labels and boundaries that make us feel like we are on top of things; as if we know all there is to know. But just like this man, we blind ourselves so as to ignore the obvious signs of profundity all around us. As a result, we end up having no purpose at all. If we ignore the truth, we have no meaning and no reason to be here. That, my friends, is a deep, psychological scar that can only be healed by embracing truth.
So, what is this track about, really? I think this track is about ignoring the obvious in life. For me, I believe in God. I feel that there are obvious signs of God that lie all around us. We try to cover him up with theories and Ph.d.s, but the simplicity of design is everywhere, and is best explained by a Creator. Do we really have the guts to deny Someone that is so easily seen? It’s a deep question that I think all of us will have to answer someday.
Nick’s comments: “This song is about introspection and finding out what makes each of us tick. Of course the goal of introspection is ultimately to find resonance and meaning in our interactions and our lives, so if these lyrics lead you to a reflection on God’s presence around us (as, for example, in the King’s X song “The World Aound Me”) then they’ve served a useful purpose.”
Me: “Commentary is a major part of these spotlights, so I hope you are pleased.”
Continuing the idea of building up defenses around ourselves, Redemption presents us with “Walls”, a truly outstanding track that will definitely get stuck in your head at a moment’s notice. Our writer is desperately trying to reach out to someone he loves. He wants to love her, be with her, even just talk to her. But that call never comes. She can’t break free of this self-made prison of self-loathing and mistrust. “Did you build it just to see/ Who cared enough to try to tear it down?”
She builds a wall everyday just to see if someone cares enough to break through it. Yet, it is never enough. She has to test it again and again. Will this never end? Can’t love be set free? Despite this, he loves her. He continually breaks down the wall because he does care. He is the one she is looking for, but she is too stuck in her own dark shadows that she doesn’t recognize it. After all is said, though, he will be there. He always will be there. Even though the mistrust tears his heart to pieces, he will still wait until the day that she emerges from the dark corners of her mind. He will wait forever, if he must.
Nick’s comments: “An excellent analysis!”
3. Leviathan Rising
One thing to keep in mind while listening to “Snowfall on Judgment Day” is the fact that it is not a concept album. These tracks are all connected somewhat thematically, but it does not follow a story or anything like that. I say this so that the next track, “Leviathan Rising”, will not seem so out of place. The track is just as powerful as the rest, though.
“Leviathan Rising” is a powerful call for freedom and a return to our roots. To understand this track, all one must do is take a look at the current political scene in the US specifically (the band is from CA) or in any other nation that is divided. “We’ve let our fears destroy/ Our dignity and freedom/ And turned our backs on all/ The principles we once held dear”. The track begins with “Remember, remember the 5th of November”. This is direct reference to Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He and some compatriots plotted to destroy the House of Lords during a meeting of Parliament. This may seem terrible, but Guy Fawkes has become the ultimate anti-hero that stands for justice and freedom from slavery and coercion of any type.
With this in mind, we can understand the lyrics here. Redemption is warning us about the beast (government/powers that be/social ignorance) that has addressed our fears at the expense of our freedoms. More and more, the world is becoming enamored with safety at the expense of personal responsibility, freedom, and truth. More and more, we give and give to those that refuse to work, and more and more we feel entitled to things that require work and pain to achieve. What has happened to passion and hard work? They seem so alien to our modern society, as people look to the government for everything!
We’ve forgotten some very important things: “We’ve let our fears destroy/ Our dignity and freedom/ And placed ourselves beneath the heel/ Of our own entitlement”. That’s right. We’ve forgotten dignity and honor and respect. How can we go on grinding these gears that our cracking underneath our own weight? This system of abuse cannot last much longer. We need to stand up and refuse to die! We need to cast off the chains that we ourselves have created, and learn to live freely and purposefully.
Nick’s comments: “A good analysis. Leviathan is, of course, a treatise on politics by Thomas Hobbes, in which he speculated that man’s nature is corrupt and evil and that life outside a powerful state is “nasty, brutish and short.” The state is imbued with powers so as to restrain man’s baser impulses. This is of course a validation of totalitarianism and I reject it completely. Behemoth is another of Hobbes’ works, which I’ve not read, but it fit appropriately in the lyrics. The first verse speaks to our relinquishment of liberties and freedoms in the wake of 9/11; the second verse is a statement in opposition to Marxism and the entitlement-mindset that unfortunately permeates our culture and drags down those whom it purports to benefit the most. The samples from the beginning and middle are from the film V for Vendetta which speaks to many of these issues. The sample at the end is from a newscast at the time of the Tiananmen Square uprising. It’s hard to make out but the line is “Tiananmen Square, June, 1989. In the wake of a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, one solitary man defies the awesome power of the state.” It’s in reference to this photo.” (seen slightly above to the right)
4. Black and White World
A beautiful piano intro guides us into the fourth track on “Snowfall on Judgment Day”. This piano is so appropriate here, as this song is so gentle, melancholy, and simply gorgeous.
“I used to see in color/ but now its only black and white”. The sheer emptiness and absence of joy in this track is so palpable that you can taste it on the tip of your tongue. The bitter flavor is welcome, however, because the amount of emotion shown here is something everyone should experience.
Once again, this man’s missing his girl. She’s right there with him, but he has sunk into a world of loneliness and despair. All the joy has been drained from his life: His world is colorless, as his sinks further into an almost non-human version of existence. No hope. No sign of change. No love. Their relationship is plagued by outside influences that have brought them to their knees.
But, he knows what he does want. He wants to holds hands with his woman along the beach. He wants to disappear into the moment, so that all problems and stresses are gone. He wants to be free to love and be loved. And, you know what? It happens! Once they leave the world behind, they immerse themselves in each other. They fall in love all over again with nature’s kiss all around them. As they focus on each other, color explodes into their lives like it was shot from a cannon. The answer to their problems had always been to follow love’s lead.
Nick’s comments: “I considered this song somewhat of a risk compositionally. How would our fans respond to the “run together” section, which is decidedly less heavy than most of our music? Fortunately, people responded. It’s my favorite song of ours and I love performing it life. We met a couple in Germany who had driven quite some distance to see us, and they showed me bracelets they had made with the lyrics from this song engraved in them. I was deeply touched that my music had made an impact on them. We dedicated the song to them that night and they were in the front row as we performed it — it was one of the most special moments I’ve experienced in Redemption and Sven Dittmann remains a Facebook friend to this day. More than anything, that experience demonstrated why we do this — it was a huge honor to connect with people that profoundly.”
Me: “Wow! At first, I saw it as more of a sorrowful song, but then I realized how amazingly joyful the end really is! It’s the answer to our stressful, busy, distracted lives. Also, as a big fan of both prog metal AND prog rock, I love the duality present in this song. If you composed more like this one, I would love it.”
The fifth track on “Snowfall on Judgment Day” is a bit tricky. I always thought that he was talking to someone; but, really, he’s just speaking to himself. Well, maybe that’s not quite true. He’s talking to a feeling within himself: a sense of dread that his life has been wasted.
Dread. “You haven’t drawn a breath/ But I know you/ Still unformed, and yet/ The flame burns true”. It’s like an entity to itself; one that we battle constantly. We can barely describe it or see it, but we can feel it in the back of our minds and on the tips of our fingers.
Redemption writes about the dread of something that cannot be undone. The pain is deep and simmering, and he is haunted by what he cannot change. He vows that “someday I’ll find the life I gave for you”, and he will learn to hope and live freely. Dread of the past, present, or future can drag us to the ground. It can stall us on our journey through life, until we become nothing at all. This track is a proclamation that he will not allow dread to rule him: He will stand his ground, face himself, and finally be at peace.
Nick’s comments: “An excellent analysis of an admittedly somewhat obscure lyric.”
6. Keep Breathing
“Seems only just yesterday/ I held you, and sang a song about your eyes”. This track is as tender-hearted as they come. This man is singing gently to his daughter: This is a love song of the deepest sort. Now, I know the lyrics are written by Nick Van Dyk, and so this song requires some background.
Nick has been battling cancer for many years. Last I heard, it went into remission (thank the Lord), but it is a battle he must fight constantly. His daughter, however, has a disease of the eyes. I’m not sure about the details, but I believe she is legally blind. This information brings this track to a whole new level of meaning.
Nick remembers singing to his daughter (“Parker’s Eyes” off of “The Fullness of Time”), but he now sees her struggling with her ailment. She is failing. But he knows the strength she possesses, and he knows the strength she inspires in himself. It’s an incredible thing, being a father. It’s an unbelievable honor, responsibility, and challenge. This is conveyed so well here: “Every day/ I used to pray/ For a miracle/ Faith, now giving out/ But for you I/ Must keep on breathing”.
Nick has gone through some dark times. He has questioned his faith, and felt himself drifting and falling. However, his daughter is his anchor. Why? She is what keeps him grounded, and his love for her and his desire to see her whole has given him new motivation beyond any kind of self-centered desire. He cares for her, so he fights for his own life. Nick is a hero of mine, and this song shows why.
Nick’s comments: On this track, Nick replied to a few comments by others. One was explaining that Nick’s daughter has cone dystrophy. Another was explaining that his (the commenter) own daughter has the same condition. Still others were thanking Nick for his emotional music. Here is one of his replies:
Nick: “I am so happy to hear about your daughter’s recovery and deeply honored that our music played a part in you expressing your elation at her success. Parker does very well, considering her condition. It’s still heart-breaking and unfair, but there is hope that one day she will be cured. I will fall to my knees and thank God the first time she is able to see my face clearly. It will be a beautiful moment. Thanks to all of you for the kind words!”
7. Another Day Dies
“How far we’ve strayed/ From supposed to be/ We’ve chosen black instead of light”. As I’ve stated before, I think much of “Snowfall on Judgment Day” has to do with walls that we build for good or bad purposes. This track is no different, as I believe it discusses a sort of wall that we build that keeps this world from being peaceful, prosperous, and good.
The lyrics speak about a breed of person that is way too common: those that accomplish nothing, care about nothing, and only throw their weight behind unsavory purposes. These people live for pleasure, destruction, and hate. We see it every day on the news: people that destroy our world instead of build it.
You know what, though? Redemption is quite adamant that there is hope. If we can just rally together, we can make this world a better place. If we can join forces and put aside differences, there is something else out there waiting for us. Now, I believe that man is not capable of this alone, but I do believe that one of our purposes is to try, try, try. Our hearts are black; and, even if we won’t admit it, we are part of the very breed that destroys more than builds. But we can change. With God’s help, this world can be better. We were meant to be so much more. I think it’s time we start to embrace that. Let’s start tearing down those walls.
Nick’s comments: “The political philosopher and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once said “man’s capacity for good makes democracy possible; man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” This duality of human nature is the source of both despair and hope — and serves as a backdrop for the duality of much of our songs.”
Me: “I see. It’s such a delicate balance. As I just posted on my own personal page from Theocracy’s “As the World Bleeds”, “Lord, hold our hands”.
8. What Will You Say?
I think I know this track entirely by heart. Word for word. “What Will You Say” is one of the most heartfelt, most emotional songs I’ve ever heard. “Seems so strange/ we just let this slip away”. This track is a call from a man to a woman who is about to (or has) leave him. What will she tell her future lovers about him? Does she respect him? Does she hate him?
This song introduces a powerful concept: regret. Will she regret leaving him? This love that they share: Is it worth abandoning or is it worth a fight? I could only imagine the pain of lying in another’s arms, and imagining how my life would be had I stayed with my wife. I can’t even conceive that: Her love is worth every battle that we have as a couple. Yet, here Redemption explores this territory where most people tread lightly.
Love is worth the pain. It is worth tearing down all our defensive walls and fortifications. It is worth everything, as love is one of the major meanings of life. “And as the years go by/ And we live out our lives/ I’ll always wonder why/ you wouldn’t spend yours here with me”. Are our walls really that important? Why do we lock each other out of our hearts? I know that I need to open myself more. I have way too many walls that block a completely open relationship. We all do. If we manage to tear down our unnecessary defenses, we will never have to answer this question, “What will you say?”.
Nick’s comments: “More painful still, imagine envisioning an ex-wife lying in another arms, being asked by that other “have you been in love before?” and her reflecting on her relationship with you and picking and choosing the words to sum up everything that you were to her. Ugh. Pretty awful concept, right?”
Me: “She would have complete control of what her new lover thinks of you. She could tell him that she never really loved you, or she could honor you. It’s up to her whim. I have to be honest and say that I’ve envisioned that very thing. It’s painful, but sometimes I can’t help but let my mind explore.”
9. Fistful of Sand
The heaviest track on “Snowfall on Judgment Day” packs a wallop both musically and lyrically. If “Unformed” is about dread, this track discusses regret on an extremely personal basis.
“The world keeps spinning ever-on/ And dark hair turns to gray/ The ticking clock cannot be stopped/ And so goes another day”. Our lives are ever counting down, down, down to the end. We will all die. But we make so many decisions, some that are life-changing. Some of them are unwise and foolish. We only have so much time to be the person we should or want or need to be. Why waste so much time? Precious time.
We are nothing but dust. Sand. We can’t go back and change our wrongs and mistakes: Time is ever dwindling before our eyes. We all get one chance and one time to shine. Redemption here writes about feeling utter regret for one’s past: This regret cripples him, hollows his insides, and causes a scar on his self-confidence. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Wisdom and clarity trump good intentions and meaningless words. What a crazy world in which we live! What will you do with your time?
Nick’s comments: ” There is also a subtext here of having your time wasted by investing it unwisely with other people (consider a relationship or the notion of “giving the best years of your life” to somebody only to have them disappoint you).”
Me: “Ah, I see it now. This explains the slightly angry approach?”
Nick: “Yes…though I’m not sure there’s much that’s slight about it.”
Me: “Haha, I didn’t wanna be “that” guy!”
10. Love Kills Us All/Life in One Day
Here it is, the final track on “Snowfall on Judgment Day”. This album is a progressive masterpiece, in my opinion, and I feel the guys end the album just right with this grand opus that brings several of the themes throughout the album into one idea: Love does not have to end.
“Every summer leads to fall/ And we give our hearts/ Hoping there’s no chain of consequence”. There it is. There’s the dread I spoke about earlier in the album. The human experience is wrought with pain and failure, but it is also endowed with hope and longing. Therefore, we are all seeking something. We are all seeking to love and be loved. Yet, we fear the pain that could arise from daring to love. We dread it.
“Now I’ve lived my life in one day/ I don’t know what more I have to wait for/ An element reacting/ Just a flash and then it’s gone/ And only I remain”. There it is. There’s the regret that we saw earlier. Pain and failure become very real things: We’ve all experienced them personally. Then, we begin to think about what we could have done differently; how things might have been. We begin to regret our past.
Indeed, we build up walls again and again. We defend ourselves from ever trying anything because we dread the consequences. Yet, we also refuse to try again after we fall. We build a wall of regret to shield us from future possibilities. Walls. Wall everywhere that keep us from happiness, love, and joy.
“Something stirred the embers/ In this long dead heart/ Beautiful and simple/ But much too far apart”. There is always a coal alive in our souls. We may have been fed to the fire of pain and failure, but there is always that one spark left within us. Hope. Hope can always live on in our hearts. Love can still live on, too. Love can still be had. Why? Because love and hope and happiness are all worth it. They are worth the trouble, the scars, and the dejection. Love doesn’t have to kill us all. We can try. And then try again. What matters is how we handle ourselves. Will we build walls? Or will will get up, knock the dust off, and try again?
Nick’s comments: “An excellent analysis yet again.”
Redemption’s “Snowfall on Judgment Day” takes us down to the depths, but then offers hope in the end. The whole album is centered around walls that we build: mental, spiritual, relational, and even political.
Whether it be a wall of propaganda and lies to put freedom in a cage or walls built to keep out the pain so as to be there for your beloved child, these walls are part of our nature: Some are bad, and some are good. We may build walls to shield us from accomplishing things or finding love, or we may put up defenses to keep us from trying again. Indeed, we may even find that we build walls of depression and anxiety that keep our loved ones from reaching us.
Whatever they may be, we need to be conscious of which walls we build. There’s a big, bright world out there full of opportunity, love, and happiness. If we erect the wrong walls, we may lead lives of darkness, heartbreak, and disease. If we choose to let others in, however, there is no limit to how beautiful and tender this life can be. Choose wisely.
Nick’s comments: “Beautifully done, sir. Thank you very much for highlighting some of our music. I hope some of our future work will bring you inspiration and enjoyment!”