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As a general rule, the independent creator is the ideal in any art form. An opinion, a craft, or a series of conceptions unhindered by the constraints of commercial benefactors and novelty marketers. The advent of mass communication has made this sort much more accessible for those seeking this sort of artist within the musical realm, without the need of a middle man gumming up the works with his musically uninformed, weathervane oriented input. This is basically the sort of attraction you get with Ego, an unfiltered collection of compositions.
Musically things tend to center around Unai Rubio, who handles all of the instruments, save a couple of violin solo slots. What he puts forth is a fairly loose arrangement, though by no means sloppy or in any way unorganized. Acoustic guitar sections and melodic lead breaks are a very common occurrence here, often accompanied by a fair share of ambient keyboard lines, mostly in the form of atmospheric string or chorus sounds. He’s definitely a competent lead player, though he doesn’t really fall into the showboating category.
Most of the songs on here tend to be through composed, lacking the trappings of the cliché song structures commonly heard on the radio. Often they’ll sit in an instrumental intro for up to a minute or so, introducing 3 or 4 different musical ideas, before the vocals come in. The vocal sections also tend to be fleeting, as Unai doesn’t like to stay tied to one idea for more than 15 seconds. Instrumental breaks also are a frequent occurrence, be it either a lengthy guitar solo section, or just a series of drum beat and riff changeups to keep the ears guessing.
Although a pretty solid display of songwriting and musicality, this album suffers from a sense of flatness. Individually these songs are all intriguing, but as a whole the lack of tempo variance really makes this sound like one 45 minute long jam session. The production is also extremely dry, which most obviously manifests itself in the vocals sounding detached from the rest of the music, as well as leaving jagged edges between the differing instruments where a little extra reverb and effects tweaking often helps to unify things.
If there is one lone gem on here that shines just a little bit brighter than the rest in this fairly straight lined opus, it’s the closer “Ego”. From the epic sounding intro with that thudding military drum and chugging, palm muted guitar pulse playing in perfect unison with a sort of early 90s Fates Warning flavor, through all of the various half-ballad piano and violin sections, this thing just can’t help but stay interesting. The vocal delivery is powerful on both the male and female end of things, while putting forth a nice set of memorable melodies to contrast with all of the ever changing guitar riffs.
As a whole, this is something that would be worth looking into if you like the Italian variety of progressive metal, found in bands such as Aura and Astra. It’s not quite overt Dream Theater worship, but it tends more towards their general way of doing things from the “Images And Words” and “Awake” era of their sound. If this album ever gets remixed or rerecorded, a little more atmosphere would help this album greatly. Nonetheless, “Architect Of Illusions” is a competent album by a very competent outfit.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 8, 2009.