Released: 2004, Metal Blade
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
What a stunning debut this is! Germany’s Disillusion have released a couple of demos, but their first full-length (on Metal Blade, no less) is an amalgam of the best parts of Opeth, Tool and System of a Down and then mixed together with some black metal, death metal and even a hint of jazz. BACK TO TIMES OF SPLENDOR is quite magnificent in its sheer breadth of styles, not to mention the lengthy tracks (6 songs = 58 minutes). The captain at the helm of this mighty ship is Vurtox, who sings, plays bass and guitar. He also produced the album, wrote all of the lyrics and most of the music found here. Vurtox’s voice is very close to that of Serj Tankian from System of a Down…startlingly close, in fact. To someone not in the know, this could be a side project of the SOAD frontman and they’d be none the wiser. Of course Disillusion is NOT of that pedigree, but they have combined death and clean vocals into an eclectic metal stew that will stand as one of the most awe-inspiring debuts this year.
The harsh to clean vocal transition is flawlessly executed within the first few minutes of “…And the Mirror Cracked.” The title track is the strongest on the album. Spanning a lengthy fourteen minutes, a haunting violin segues into a heavier passage before once again returning to a more sedate pace of acoustic guitars and clean vocals. Things eventually pick up again as the vocals become heavy and the crunching guitars and double bass attack conclude this epic track. As with Opeth, this roller-coaster effect can be a bit trying to a listener who isn’t willing to open their mind to more progressive and unorthodox song structures. This isn’t your typical “verse, bridge, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, verse” music; Disillusion paints a complex picture that is not for the ADD crowd. The shortest track is “A Day by the Lake” and its mellow, almost ethereal, pacing is a perfect bridge between the grandeur of two marathon tracks. The album closer, “The Sleep of Restless Hours,” is a monster at just over seventeen minutes and like the title track, an amazing thing happens...the time just whizzes by as the listener is swept up in the (pardon the pun) splendor of such lush soundscapes being presented.
As far as debuts go, Disillusion’s BACK TO TIMES OF SPLENDOR is over and above what is to be expected from a new band. The songwriting is superb, the instrumentation is nearly flawless and production is top-notch. Incorporating so many styles into one entity can be a sign of uncertainty and a lack of focus. In this case, it is a sign of boundless ambition, unheralded creativity and unrelenting promise. Disillusion has raised the bar for new bands and good on Metal Blade, for they have landed themselves a real gem here.
KILLER KUTS: “…And the Mirror Cracked,” “Back to Times of Splendor,” “A Day by the Lake”