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Illusions is a landmark album for Crematory, and not necessarily in a good way. Transmigration wasn't exactly furious death metal, it was perhaps cranky at best. ...Just Dreaming wasn't even querulous, and the band seemed to be playing synthy death metal with no aggression or any emotion at all. Illusions is slightly less boring, with their previous crankiness replaced by gothic moroseness and fanciful keyboard-based atmosphere. There are some good moments here, but apart from being largely redundant, the album also portended Crematory's transformation into a crappy Rammstein-thing.
Crematory's original slow, gooey death metal is drowned here by a whole bunch of synths, which set the mood and melody of each song. Occasionally a lead stands out, such as in 'The Beginning of the End', but generally the leads just sort of drone unimaginatively on, as in 'Sweet Solitude.' The rhythm guitars show zero complexity, doing nothing more than add a downtuned nougat core to the music. The barely audible bass plays along with the guitars, while the drums simply keep pace. With only a few exceptions, the atmosphere of the album falls far short of gothic mystery and epic soundscapes as the band no doubt intended, instead causing the listener the same sort of glassy-eyed disorientation being 92 and living in a retirement home probably does.
After an intro seemingly taken from a side-scrolling Final Fantasy game or something, in comes 'Faces.' The forlorn, weeping guitar sound that opens the song is actually very nice, capturing the spirit of Anathema or Lacrimas Profundere's Burning: A Wish. The thickly accented spoken word vocals that blare over this are less exciting however, and therein is one of the album's main problems. Although the curiously named Felix Stass has a very respectable death grunt, he insists on regularly lapsing into spoken word. It is obvious the band were already itching to get a clean singer amongst their ranks, or at least some sort of contrast to the death vocals (it was 1995, people seemed to be ashamed of having only growls in their music for some reason). Quite simply, Felix mouthing off about "dreams of remembrance" all over the place doesn't work, it harms the atmosphere of the music and this applies for the entire album.
The album does have two insanely good songs, however, where the glittering gothic kitsch of the album seems for a short period of time to be a fucking fantastic idea. 'Tears of Time', the band's signature song, features brilliantly crunchy vocals from Felix and a lovely little bit of synth plonking alongside the simplistic power chords of the chorus. Unashamedly cheesy but it works so very, very well and is a personal favourite. 'Lost in Myself' was summed up perfectly by my girlfriend, who despite being no metalhead but having heard 'Tears of Time', immediately said "these guys really stick to a formula, don't they?" No question. It's basically 'Tears of Time' part two, with the same repetitive power chords and cute keyboard sounds in the chorus, but somehow very pleasant to the ears. More crap spoken word too though, bleh.
Since there are only two songs on here that you will want to hear again, and then only if you have a tolerance for cheese, Illusions doesn't do too well in the longevity department. Crematory also get nil pois for instrumental prowess. It's still better than an album like Revolution, or Klagebilder, which are actually offensive to the ears and numbing to the brain respectively. If you are an utter newcomer to gothic metal or death metal there are very many more options open to you. If you have a low tolerance for aggressive music however, and like the idea of death growls but tempered by the sounds of Japanese video game soundtracks and German dudes seemingly having a conversation with each other over the actual music, then there's no time to waste - you need this album.