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Illumion: Hunting for Significance

Released through Progress Records, Hunting For Significance is Illumion's debut release and the brain child of Eveline van Kampen, who not only plays all the guitars on the album, she composed all eleven tracks. Whilst that would therefore suggest that she would steal the show throughout, her understated and intricate playing actually underpins everything else that is going on, although there are many occasions where her playing shines. In fact vocalist Esther Ladiges who came to prominence when she won a web competition to sing on one of Arjen Luccasen's Ayreon project albums is the focal point on much of this gently symphonic, progressive rock album.

Ladiges possesses an interesting voice with a lot of depth, however there are times where she comes across a bit like Kate Bush without the "wow". Having said that the vocals on "Into the Labyrinth" or "Metamorphosis", which sees her mix her Bush leanings with a bit of gentle Tarja demonstrate both the variety and emotion that this style of music requires to hit home. Both of the afore mentioned songs are among the strongest on show, "Into the Labyrinth" in particular shines brightly with a strong Marillion circa Fugazi feel, where "Metamorphosis" has a more grandiose, mysterious approach mixing Ladiges vocals and van Kampen's guitars beautifully with guest musician Annemieke de Boer's excellent keyboards and Peter H. Boer's pumping bass line.

Lyrically the songs are inspired by a mixture of van Kampen's travels and books by authors such as Oscar Wilde, Franz Kafka, Edgar Allan Poe or William Blake and in truth can be a bit cumbersome and "clunky" at times. A perfect example of this is the opening lines from album opener "Encomium"; "Depurate the air with lies, Deracinate the trees with rice, Immoral poets devocalized, While perdition is at rise" which is too convoluted for my tastes. However when the words and musical performances do come together the results are really well worth consideration. "Prophecy" is one such moment where Ladiges seems more comfortable with the words and along with one of the simplest, catchiest riffs on the whole album has focus and drive that can be lacked elsewhere.

The musicianship right across the whole album is impressive and tight, drummer Emile Boellaard certainly knows how to play for the song, avoiding any temptation to overplay and dominate proceedings, instead his performance is subtle without being plain and is a joy to listen to. That's not to suggest that any of the band over play their hand and credit is also due to keyboardist Eveline Simons who's playing holds the whole thing together with gentle melodies and interesting stabs which really enhances the overall sound.

As debuts go, Hunting For Significance is a good effort, what I would suggest is more use of light and shade could have moved the songs onto the next level as there are not quite enough really memorable moments to stick in the mind and a punchier production could maybe have solved this issue. Too often you are left waiting for a stronger, heavier riff or more dramatic vocal.

Not a fantastic album, but one that leaves me strongly intrigued as to what album number two will sound like.

Track list:
1 Encomium
2 Scarlet sin
3 Chrysanthemum
4 Into the labyrinth
5 Metamorphosis
6 The Prophecy
7 Under the harrow
8 Died for beauty
9 Infinity
10 Whirlwind
11 The Bliss

Added: July 18th 2009
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2881
Language: english

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Illumion: Hunting for Significance
Posted by Mark Johnson on 2013-08-23 23:29:55
My Score:

Hunting for Significance is Illumion's second release. I was lucky enough to review their debut album The Waves, and enjoyed every minute of the album. This sophomore album continues the power and grace of their female lead style with even deeper impact. This time they have enlisted a wonderful artist in Jankees Braam. His artwork truly helps emphasize the message in the lyrics and music.

Esther Ladiges on lead vocals along with Eveline van Kampen on supporting vocals is another great combination for this album. The two ladies combine to bring both emotion and powerful delivery to bear on this album full of stories.

One of those great stories is the opening track "Encomium", with its serious ecological warning. Ladiges sings, "Depurate the air with lies. Deracinate the trees with rice. Immortal poets devocalized. While perdition is at rise". Very powerful lyrics and imagery with which to open an album. Ladiges drives home the point well, "Hunt down animals on the sly. Support the world's political vice. Hearken our extinction cry. Who dares to close the eyes? Is this all we want?" I think they will get your attention early.

"Scarlet Sin" is another deep lyrical journey. This time the subject is Oscar Wilde's A Picture of Dorian Gray. Van Kampen's lead guitar and Peter Boer's heavy bass help create a deep rich soundscape from which Ladiges expounds, "The canvas so enthralling. Became more loathsome day by day. Anxious thoughts overwhelmed him so. The knife shall have the final say". Illumion do a great job capturing the deep depressive mood surrounding this story.

About time for something more upbeat eh? Well, "Chrysanthemum" opens with sparkling keys and soft female vocals from both ladies before the lyrics inspired by the Curse of the Golden Flower unfold and bring back the darkness. The erhu and flute add even more drama to the chilling lyrics and storyline.

"Into the Labyrinth" is one of the best tracks on the album. The wonderful guitar that opens the song will take you back to legends of progressive favorites. Ladiges vocals and soft whispers from van Kampen add more mystery and suspense to the mix. At times, Ladiges even conjures the power of mystery that only a Kate Bush has been able to weave well. The intricate guitar work must be experienced. The hollow drum effects are a great nuance to the mix. The track was inspired by The Labyrinth of Budapest.

"Metamorphosis", inspired by Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, is another great adaptation of a story of literature for a musical masterpiece. Some of the album's best lead guitar soloing are combined well with excellent bass support.

"Prophecy" opens with some excellent soaring lead guitar riffs well supported with bass and keys. Ladiges sings some more deep lyrics, "The tormenting wheel of fate. Like a used arrow on a slate. A storm of thoughts so intense. Life begins where delusion ends". The keyboard solo will bring back memories of Tony Banks, but you will wish it could have gone on longer.

There are many dark subjects found during this hunt for significance. A musical exploration of Edgar Allen Poe's, The Pit and the Pendulum is examined on the track "Under the Harrow".

"Died for Beauty" is full of powerful lead electric guitar solos, orchestrated strings and deep bass.

"Infinity" was inspired by The Mountain Tree, by Zhuangzi and Auguries of Innocence by William Blake. Ladiges sings passionately, What if I gave it all? What if I gave you all? What if I ruined it all? What if I didn't do anything at all? How am I supposed to live when all I love dies around me? Give me a glimpse outside my eyes". Yes profound lyrics inspired by a hunt for profound stories within literature performed well to a striking musical score full of violin and viola.

"Whirlwind" opens with a strong lead electric guitar guiding the flow of the sound. Ladiges vocals and the soft piano provide the perfect balance to the sound.

"The Bliss" opens with powerful drums, bass and lead electric guitar. However, Ladiges vocals rise above, "Looking up through the water. Surface light and green seaweed. Shining through outrageous blue. It all became clear to me". The lead electric soloing on this track is excellent, but so is the bass and drum support. The ending keyboards weave the best mystery of all. Wish there would have been more throughout the album. You will hear sounds that harken back to The Lamb within this mini keyboard symphony…and you will smile.

Another power – packed album from Illumion. Two in a row. Yes, they definitely will remain a part of my "watch list".

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