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Box Of Shamans: Belief and Illusion

It all started with the band Mars Hollow who released two excellent albums. Then Heliopolis arose out of the ashes in 2014 and released their debut album. Now we have Box of Shamans consisting of multi-instrumentalist Michael Matier (Heliopolis, Ten Jinn), drummer Jerry Beller (Heliopolis, Mars Hollow) and vocalist Scott Jones (Heliopolis, Rocket Scientists).

The album is titled Belief and Illusion and it continues a fine run of albums brought forth by these excellent players. The music is both complex and melodic and it a testament to these musicians how succinctly they marry such virtuosic complexity with something that is so irresistibly catchy.

The tracks are relatively short except for one over ten minutes. What is really impressive is how these songs cover such a wide range of tempos and musical change ups in such a short amount of time. The album opener "Belief" is a prime example. Beginning with chaotic instrumentation layered over a funky bass groove the music twists and turns through jazz/fusion flavoured interludes, tasty acoustic guitar and crunchy electric riffs all the while retaining a great melody. From the Heliopolis debut of last year we already knew that Jones has a great voice and he is in top form here, adding great melodies throughout the disc. On the pretty acoustic led "All For You" his voice is akin to Yes's Jon Anderson adding a touch of elegance to the grandiose and symphonic arrangement. The calm only lasts for a short while as the album's third track "Optical Delusion" continues with complex progressive rock with fantastic bass breaks, wild guitar acrobatics and an intricate vocal arrangement. "Circumstances Divide" calms things down again with a pastoral arrangement of acoustic guitar and lovely vocals. The background swells of keyboards are used mainly for atmosphere.

Perhaps the most complex piece is the ten plus minute "The Search" starting with a Gentle Giant-like vocal arrangement leading into atmospheric guitar soundscapes ala Pink Floyd and Yes-like vocals. Venturing from pastoral to heavier motifs, this is a song of epic proportions and encompasses the band's penchant for outstanding musicianship while still retaining their strong sense of melody.

The pastoral "May Daze" follows suit featuring lush harmony vocals and soothing guitar arpeggios while the darkly hued "Intruder" is heavier with electronic percussion having a subtle industrial edge. The band even throw in some flamenco style acoustic guitar.

"An Illusory Ploy" ends the disc with another slice of complex prog combining edgy electronics and quirky keyboards with slow plodding guitar riffs and stellar bass runs. There is more discord and chaos here as the band explores more cosmic progressive forms.

The more I spin Belief and Illusion, the more I dig it. An essential purchase for any prog fan's collection. Released on 10T Records.

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing:
1. Belief
2. All For You
3. Optical Delusion
4. Circumstances Divide
5. The Search
6. May Daze
7. Intruder
8. Tune In
9. An Illusory Ploy

Added: August 15th 2015
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Label's Official Site
Hits: 2785
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Box Of Shamans: Belief and Illusion
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-08-15 06:18:44
My Score:

Not that long ago I could be found extolling the virtues of Heliopolis, a band likened to everything from Yes to Spock's Beard, Mars Hollow to IQ, Genesis to Transatlantic. Surely that would be enough for any musician steeped in the world of prog? Well, apparently not, as the debut, Belief And Illusion, from Box Of Shamans finds three of Heliopolis (Michael Matier (Ten Jinn), Jerry Beller (Mars Hollow) and Scott Jones (Rocket Scientists)) stretching their wings yet further. And further in all directions, beautiful almost acapella vocal tracks neatly nestling alongside galloping progressive rock that pushes keenly at the boundaries. The short "All For You" fits the bill on the former, the frantic, eclectic "Optical Delusion" the latter, where a full on smash of the accessible singalong of Elephants Of Scotland wheels straight into Belew era King Crimson. Challenging, yet startlingly memorable.

"Circumstances Divide" brings us right back into song led fare, Jones' Jon Anderson meets Geddy Lee vocal whisking you along on a beautiful turn of guitar, although even here a darker bite never leaves any doubt that these Shamans won't simply provide an easy ride. A captivating jaunt it is though, melody always as important as dexterity; something the ten minute plus album defining "The Search" confirms as its many and varied themes engage the senses. Mars Hollow, Peter Gabriel, Yes, Camel, it's all here and so much more. That hit of prog past and present that the Yanks do so well these days in evidence throughout. "May Daze" once more highlights the stunning vocal interplay this trio are capable of, almost as much it does the diversity, just as "An Illusionary Ploy" veers dangerously near to pushing over the edge as the melody comes close to the sound of a band falling down the stairs; a superb solo and airy atmosphere saving the teetering trio.

Box Of Shamans aren't your average prog act and their Belief And Illusion isn't your average prog debut…how refreshing!

Box Of Shamans: Belief and Illusion
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-07-31 14:04:25
My Score:

Comprised of musicians from a few notable prog bands (Heliopolis, Mars Hollow, Ten Jinn, and Rocket Scientists), Box of Shamans have unleashed their new album, Belief and Illusion on 10T Records. Rather than dipping into past prog glories, Box of Shamans offer a more modern approach and rely heavily on soaring pop melodies while dropping in the requisite instrumental flourishes that genre fans so cherish. Lead vocalist Scott Jones simply shines on the catchy "Intruder", a hook laden rocker that instantly sticks with you after that first listen, while the supremely talented Michael Matier lays down plenty of tasty guitar lines, nimble bass, and wonderful keyboard tapestries on strong tracks like the heavy "An Illusory Ploy", the intricate prog gem "Optical Delusion", and the albums lone epic "The Search".

Musically, Box of Shamans don't really sound like anyone else; despite Jones' occasional 'Jon Anderson-meets-Geddy Lee' styled vocal attack, the band as a whole have a very unique sound, which makes Belief and Illusion a very refreshing and enjoyable listen. If you have a penchant for memorable pop hooks, symphonic arrangements, and the occasional dark, heavy, and menacing passage, there will be wealth of alluring material here for you to savor.

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