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Disillusion: Back To Times of Splendor

A cacophony of vocal styles screams, grunts and clean, often in the same song and occasionally at the same time swirl around dense but grandiose music of cinematic proportions on the debut album from Germany's Disillusion. A concept that tells the dramatic story of a wanderer, Back to Times of Splendor packs too much wallop to digest in one sitting. Or six. So much takes place within the intricate structures and moody textures of these six songs. Orchestral arrangements crash against extreme-metal riffs and mesh with acoustic guitars, while the lyrics read as if inspired by ancient folklore. To wit: "It came from dismal shadows/Creeping sudden from behind/Fell upon my merry whistle/Darkened me at heart and sight" (from "And the Mirror Cracked") or "At sudden swallows took upon the scene/Heralding what I could not have foreseen/A threat of rain on the dark horizon/A strong foreboding of a storm arising/And willows'd roar, midges're dazzled/Birches did sigh from painful lessons" (from the title track).

Although Disillusion creates the illusion that a metal militia is making all this noise, Back to Times of Splendor is essentially the work of only three men, including singer, multi-instrumentalist and band mastermind Vurtox. It's no wonder Disillusion took more than 18 months to let go of this project, in the process pushing back no fewer than four release dates for Back to Times of Splendor. Truth be told, some of the music here sounds as if it's been massaged too much, and Disillusion might have actually exhausted all of its musical ideas on one epic album. Still, there's a lot here to decipher and to savor.

Track Listing:
1) And the Mirror Cracked (8:27)
2) Fall (4:54)
3) Alone I Stand In Fries (6:53)
4) Back to Times of Splendor (14:39)
5) A Day By the Lake (4:54)
6) The Sleep of Restless Hours (17:03)
Total Time: 56:52

Added: March 29th 2004
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Disillusion Web Site
Hits: 4108
Language: english

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Disillusion: Back To Times of Splendor
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-01-13 13:12:56
My Score:

To paraphrase an old saw: I have seen the future of metal, and it is THIS.

'This' is essentially extreme metal, but it is rich in huge, delightfully light sections, folksy pieces, complex progressive metal, and enough growling to classify it somewhere within the 'death' genre. The best description is probably 'Progressive melodic death metal", although there's plenty of folk, speed and thrash and that's the whole point of this music. Disillusion draws from so many influences that the whole is significantly greater than the sum of the many disparate parts.

The first 2 minutes of Back To Times Of Splendor will have you writing it off as pure death metal with thrash thrown in. The next two minutes will have you thinking that there's something more to these guys there are chaotic, frantic bits, and the vocals are flipping in and out of extreme mode and the growls actually contribute to the melody. And it's all uphill from there, improving with each of the six songs. With an average playing times of over 9 minutes, each track has plenty of time to develop character, introduce complexities, and take you on a rollercoaster ride as it moves from one sub-style of modern metal to the next to the next with deceptive ease Now it's angry and guttural, now there are spacey melodies floating over a determined double-bass, now there are big multi-part choruses followed by laid back relaxed clean singing and those shifts in tempo and emotion and time signature are so elegantly managed that the whole piece has an epic quality.

This album will you to invest time and concentration on the first few spins. Listen for the wailing violin in the 14-minute title track, and concentrate on how it integrates with the heavy riff-laden rhythm, and notice how the vocals start angry and growled but develop into something laid back and melodic, tracking the theme introduced by that violin. Notice how the relatively short, mostly instrumental "A Day By The Lake" feeds off that theme and blends mellow and heavy sounds simultaneously. Note with interest that the standard maudlin chord progressions of your garden-variety death metal are thankfully absent from this record. Wallow in the 17-minute epic closing track that takes you so many places and ends with such an appealing, mellow tone that you're ready to spin it again and be assaulted by those opening bars.

Many have compared Disillusion's music with Opeth. Well the written description certainly makes it sound that way, but in the flesh, it is quite different. Think of a cross between Borknagar and Tool. Or better for the few who are familiar with Green Carnation's Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness, you'll find Back To Times Of Splendor is similar in many ways, if somewhat heavier.

The sound is so rich that it's hard to imagine Disillusion as a trio. Turns out that band leader, vocalist and guitarist 'Vurtox' (aka Andy Schmidt) wrote most of the music, all the lyrics, and produced it. It took a year and a half to write and almost another year to bring this project to life, and even though the band has been around in one form or another since 1994, their debut full-length album is a remarkable effort. It isn't perfect and the clean singing could stand a bit of polish, but damn, it's a debut! 4 stars for the music, another -star because it's (virtually) a one-man band's debut this is a five star CD that should have a slot in the best-of-2004 lists, alongside Borknagar's Epic.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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