Mystery – Redemption (2023)
It's always exciting when one of your favourite bands releases a new album. Can they live up to the high expectations or at least maintain the level of previous releases? But as strange as it sounds, with the Canadian band Mystery I never really worry. At least not if Michel St-Pere is allowed to indulge his musical magic in new creations. You just can't go wrong with these top performers from the prog scene. And although I love their previous album Lies and Butterflies, Delusion Rain remains my favourite album by this super sympathetic band. Correction, it was like that but after the release of their new album Redemption this has changed because with this album they have surpassed themselves. Redemption is my favourite Mystery album from now on and I'll do my best to explain why in the next review.
For those who have ever seen Mystery live it is no surprise that we can expect a perfectly attuned band here and that can be heard in all eight compositions on Redemption. With 74 minutes playing time it is clear that it has become a long album. Prior to the release, two advance songs were already available and they are also the two opening songs of the album. Behind the Mirror is a real Mystery song of more than six minutes. Everything we know is there, drama, bombast, flawless vocals and of course a great guitar solo from the master himself because let's be honest, that's what we want to hear. Following that we get the title track and for that everything applies that also applies to the previous song except that the guitar solo is played by Sylvain Moineau. He certainly plays with such dexterity and also proves to be a very good guitarist, but I secretly miss the magic of St-Pere a bit.
The Beauty and the Least is the first longer song and wow this is very cool. The song immediately opens with some great outbursts from St-Pere and the goosebumps don't go away anymore. Francois Fournier lets his bass roar and drummer Jean Sebastien Goyette shows why he owes the nickname "animal", what a power. And we haven't mentioned him yet, but singer Jean Pageau radiates authority . He sings with such power and depth that every note touches you and everything is so wonderfully intelligible. It's just not possible not to pick up on the emotion.
Pearls and Fire is again a real pearl (yes, yes, the literary content is huge again) and offers everything you are looking for in good prog in abundance, even the keyboards get plenty of space, for Mystery standards that is. After a wonderful intro, after a few minutes the tempo goes up considerably and there is a lot of rocking without ever leaning towards metal. Thank god. Lyrically, the song is about a Canadian soldier and his experiences regarding his part in the liberation of Europe and the horrors of war. You can hear this drama in the music, what an emotion and variety. And yes, St-Pere touches me deeply again with his melodic solos that cut through the marrow and bone. Not too many can do this, well Mitchel, Rothery, Barrett, Walner……. OK, a few then.
The song My Inspiration was also played at the last concerts and to be honest I was not immediately convinced by this song. There are certainly nice and full, bombastic parts with a lot of bass pedals, but the melody is a bit sweet. The lyrics are very sweet too and almost soggy, something that people often blame Mystery, and although I normally like long songs, eight minutes is certainly a lot because there is no guitar solo (what?) in it. I think the song is better on record, but it remains my least loved song on Redemption.
In between we have the shorter songs Every Note and Homecoming and they are just very beautiful with a somewhat simpler but nice melody and they provide balance on the album and that is so important and often underestimated.
Now of course we all know (do you?) that Mystery are the masters of epics. With Through Different Eyes, Just Another Day, The Willow Tree, Looking for Something Else and Chrysalis, they have already provided a range of evidence for this statement. Closing song Is This how the Story ends? of almost twenty minutes certainly fits in this list and perhaps leaves them all behind. What a phenomenal song this is! Mystery at its very best and of course the rock is not missing with a few solitary power chords that are just part of the variety. Here and there a rhythmic piece of synthesizer creates a spacy atmosphere and the vocal lines are so beautiful and emotional. And I hardly dare to mention it anymore because of the almost embarrassing repeting content, but what a treat the solos are again. And then that ending, what a fantastic melody and what a bombast and emotion.
As allways, the artwork is very good, the cover speaks for itself.
So, after this hymn it's time for some serious critical notes.
Uhmmm, there are actually hardly any or they must be the somewhat sweet lyrics. But if you sing them like Pageau, that's fine by me. (quite nice of me, isn't it) Compared to the previous albums I think the keyboard parts are a bit more audible and that is welcome in view of the dominance of the guitars.
I don't know who could knock this album of the first place on my annual list, but of course I’m always open to surprises.
Très bien fait les gars!