without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
The band felt the need to re-record their demo material and ship it out as the third full-length Limbonic Art record. Epitome of Illusions finds itself precariously wedged between the group's more bombastic, pompous early releases and the band's one true masterpiece: Ad Noctum - Dynasty of Death. Even though this was recorded after In Abhorrence Dementia, it embodies some sort of bridge-gapper between Moon in the Scorpio and Limbonic Art's aforementioned second LP regarding both compositional style and sonic aesthetics.
As such, many of these tracks sound like B-sides from In Abhorrence Dementia, crunchy guitar sound and all. The heavier guitar presence is the single element that separates this from Moon in the Scorpio enough to be tolerable. There are some decent riffs like at around 5 minutes in "Eve of Midnight" and halfway through "Solace of the Shadows". It serves as an interesting historical precursor, laying the groundwork for the band's more agitated guitar assault present on all of their subsequent releases. The biggest problem is deep-rooted and lies in the fact that these songs were composed when the band was in it's infancy and lacked a clear direction or purpose. Putting a more modern sheen on horrendously overlong bores like "The Black Hearts Nirvana" can only do so much to salvage the entire ordeal.
In Abhorrence Dementia also featured extremely protracted songs, but they went through enough movements to keep the listener at least somewhat engaged. Some of these longer tracks feel almost nonchalant in their delivery, deceiving the listener as they constantly implode back in upon themselves as sections are repeated ad nauseam. This puts added pressure on Morfeus' keyboard textures to deliver, a challenge which they are actually usually up to. The main melodies that constitute "Sources to Agonies" and "Solace of the Shadows" are deeply moving and somber. It reminds me of "Grace by Torments", one of the highlights from Legacy of Evil. "Path of Ice" is an entirely instrumental number that has some decent keyboard melodies and sounds more triumphant than pretty much anything else on Epitome of Illusions.
"Symphony of Moonlight and Nightmares" opens up so fucking promising, but ends up losing the plot by the halfway point. Many of these sections are effective in isolation, and it would have served Limbonic Art better to write new songs using these disparate parts instead of transposing their demo material note for note. It's cool to listen to the band playing alongside a real drummer in Eriksen, but he is hardly novel and can barely keep up. He holds some of these songs back in ways the programmed drums would not. Daemon's vocals are also a lot to stomach this time around for some reason. He had the sepulchral roars down on In Abhorrence Dementia but he seems to have taken a step back vocally here, croaking and warbling his way through most of these bloated compositions without any real rhyme or reason.
Epitome of Illusions is still a decent listen for fans of the band, even if it failed to live up to it's potential. It matters little in the end, as Limbonic Art swiftly got their shit together for Ad Noctum - Dynasty of Death and the rest as they say, is history.
It is a widely known fact that Limbonic Art's "Epitome of Illusions" didn't contain new material when it came out, but consisted of re-recorded tracks from Limbonic Art's demos, so I feel it's a release that is pretty much overlooked, which is a sad thing, as it has every right to stand as the band's third full-length album. There are two reasons for this: first, the music on here is just as excellent as we have come to expect from Morfeus & Daemon. Second, "Epitome of Illusions" perfectly bridges the gap between Limbonic Art's first two albums and their later works.
Now what exactly does that mean? Of all Limbonic Art albums, "Epitome of Illusions" features the most equal balance between the two dominant elements in Limbonic Art's sound, keyboards and guitars. While "Moon in the Scorpio" and "In Abhorrence Dementia" were really keyboard-laden and their lengthy keyboard intros often put me to sleep or made me lose interest before the songs had actually started, the albums "Ad Noctum – Dynasty of Death" and "The Ultimate Death Worship" were more guitar-driven. Of course the keyboards didn't disappear, but I think it's safe to say that the guitars were much more present on the later albums. "Epitome of Illusions", having been released between these two pairs, sits right in the centre in terms of music as well. This is perfectly clear from track #1 on, when an excellent eerie intro with keyboards, a thunderstorm and croaking ravens is suddenly torn to pieces by guitars, drums and a powerful black metal scream, all kicking in at the same time, just before the 1-minute mark. The song as a whole is a perfect example for the entire album, as it often switches between atmospheric parts and brutal black metal assaults. Which does not mean you always know what's lurking around the corner, as there's a lot of variation within the individual sections as well.
As usual, the keyboards are playing most of the time, giving the melodies, while the guitars are sometimes absent, but return frequently to play chords or simple riffs, making the music more powerful. Every now and then, however, they take over the melody, too. The drumming is done by a computer once again, which may cause complaints by some people, but Daemon and Morfeus (or at least one of them, I'm never too sure who does what in Limbonic Art) know well how to program their machine, and it never misses a beat. While I like the furious blast parts the most, there's appropriate drumming with quite some variation during the calmer parts as well. Daemon's vocals are your usual black metal screams with lots of reverb on them, and they do most of the vocal work; only in some rare parts spoken words are present as well. It's very nice to find some stereo effects were used on the vocals; in particular, one sequence in "Eve of Midnight", where you can hear Daemon's screams from the left and the spoken voice from the right, singing/speaking different lyrics at the same time, should be witnessed with a headphone. There's really an amazing lot of details in the music, as well as frequent changes in the (very good) keyboard melodies and guitar riffs, but at the same time the album is not as chaotic as usual and more transparent than any other Limbonic Art release so far, which also makes it their most accessible work. Maybe I'm just getting used to Limbonic Art, but I loved it from the first time I listened to it. Together with the equal balance of the music's defining elements, its easy accessibility makes "Epitome of Illusions" the perfect choice for people new to the band.
While I could just close my review with a definite purchase recommendation for everybody now, I want to spend a few words on the album's faults as well. To be exact, it's one weak track (#4), named "Sources to Agonies". I don't mind that it's very slow and consists only of a keyboard and some drumming near the end – in fact, I always welcome some change halfway into an album – but, unfortunately, Daemon tries to sing to this in a semi-clean voice, which sounds ridiculous at best and plain embarrassing at worst, ruining the whole track. Thankfully, this lasts only 4 minutes. I hardly ever skip anything, but here's one exception. Standout tracks, on the other hand, are numbers 1 through 3, which I would rate at 100%, plus the remaining tracks are very good as well. A highly recommended album.