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Bottom line: I've heard better, you've heard better, we've all heard better. That doesn't necessarily mean it’s not worth a listen. Its power metal. High pitched vocals. Rapid guitars. Cheesy lyrics. The thing that makes it perhaps a little better then run of the mill is what makes Time Requiem different.
The bit of classical fusion. Now on past Time Requiem albums it’s a little more pronounced. In Optical Illusion, there might be a little in the beginning of a song or traces throughout.... But not enough for real variety or the ability to pop it in and just lay back and listen to the whole thing. You can still listen to a song here and there though.
A few more negative factors are the often repetitive riffs and inaudible bass. The drums are fluid and diverse but pretty uninspired. The headline on this album is probably the keyboard. From song to song it is once again, fairly repetitive, but as I said if you listen to it a little at a time, you realize it is pretty good keyboards. It sets a good tone and helps make the music a little more unique.
Time for the positive factors. The vocals are performed very well. Or perhaps it’s just because that’s compared to the rest of it. I like that the songs, though not conceptual, are linked. In fact most songs have at least one mention to "The Aschen Soul". The softer classical breaks and solos are not only good, but are placed well. They aren't just thrown in to show off like in a lot of metal bands.
Speaking of the solos, they are good and a few of them are original, but there are issues. The original ones are outstanding. But then the filler solos could have been imagined by my cat Igmond Von Pussenstein (or Iggy for short). You know, guitar masturbation and scales. The keyboard solos are really good too though.
Possibly the best thing going for this album is the excellent production quality. All the instruments and the vocals sound just right and are mixed together perfectly. Sadly for the band, the production job is more of an extra thing, and though commendable, doesn't make it worth buying. As we all know.
In case you didn't notice I’ve been saying good a lot. That’s exactly what this album is. There's not much to complain about. It’s just good. There's not much to scream about. It's just good. Slightly above average. Hopefully Time Requiem will bring back more classical influences. Here’s to hoping! Until then, I'm giving Optical Illusion:
a 63 out of 100 or a 3 out of 5
I liked this album (Optical Illusion) more when I first heard it. My interest in it has waned in the past few weeks as I got a clearer perspective on it. The conclusion?
What we have here is basic power metal for the most part, with some slow parts and some faster parts and a lot of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-solo-chorus shit that gets annoying really quickly. It's not bad music, and for the most part it's enjoyable, it's just not exceptional in any way. There are a few reasons for this, but I'll get down to the basics:
The guitar manages to ruin this album in two ways. The first one is that the rhythm guitar volume runs the gamut from mousy and weak to barely audible. Shoot the producer for this, I know, but it still ruins the album and I have to blame Time Requiem (Or Richard Andersson more specifically) for letting this out without any real rhythm guitar presense. This is metal, for christ sakes. Why can't I hear the rhythm guitar loud and bold? This somewhat minor flaw is compounded by the second flaw of the guitars, and that is that even if the rhythm guitar were bumped up to acceptable levels, the playing is rather one dimensional and contrived. Magnus Niilson goes through the motions on this album, doing his best soulless Yngwie Malmsteen impersonation, while lacking the explosive speed and power of the Real Master. Sure, Niilson is competent enough, but he can't use his talent for anything useful. While there are a few leads that stand out (Sphere of My Fantasy, The Ashen Soul, and one of the solos on Optical Illusion come to mind), for the most part he plods along, giving the average neoclassical oriented lead, sounding phoned in ever so much.
The keyboardist and founder of Time Requiem, Richard Andersson, has similar flaws. However, instead of being too quiet, the keyboards dominate this whole album, so I have to listen to soulless solo after soulless solo. Make no mistake, neither Andersson nor any member of Time Requiem has a dearth of talent. Nay, there is quite much musical ability, and for the most part the songs are headbangable. There are just few moments of power, few moments where I feel they're really "going for it." As a result, most of this album comes off as a cheap malmsteen clone, and in fact, if you listen to enough Malmsteen, you'll realize that (in both lyrics and riffs) Andersson has stolen quite a bit of material from the Master, most evidently from the Seventh Sign and Fire and Ice albums. For instance, listen to the verse on Miracle Man, then listen to the verse on Yngwie's "I Don't Know" from the Seventh Sign album. Or listen to the solo section on Optical Illusion, then listen to "Fire and Ice" from, well, Fire and Ice. There are many more instances, but I'll let the listener find out where they are.
Optical Illusion is not a bad album, and Time Requiem are not a bad band. It's just rather uninspired, and makes me wonder what could be if Andersson had taken the time to write songs that stood out from the rest, instead of writing B-grade power metal that condemns him and Time Requiem to suffer on the pile of all the other cheap power metal Malmsteen clones.
Im not a fan of Dream Theater. Whether that is because I refuse to allow myself to like a band that, I feel, is more inclined to show off their capabilites than write good songs is one question that I probably shouldn't need to answer. Time Requiem is possibly the greatest Dream Theater clone I have ever heard however, there is something strange present here on Optical Illusion that makes me enjoy them and I dont think its because they actually make good musicianship work from a songwriting perspective. Whereas Dream Theater's song seem to be a pitch patchy in some places for me, Time Requiem's compositions flow more like birds softly taking flight only to come to rest on some branch or something. Dream Theater to me is like that bird's deformed cousin that only has one wing and doesn't beleive the other birds when they tell him that he can't fly.
This album is a great showcase of abilities, yes, there is no doubt about that however underlying the fact that these guys are fantastic musicians is the fact that they are also fantastic songwriters. Although I can't give them credit for being truly original in their attempt and sound, I can give them kudos for their above mentioned credits. Manning the pilots seat to my [questionable] ears is Richard Andersson, Time Requiem's keyboard extroardinaire who's heavily prominent on this album, clearly has a lot of classical piano training which shows throughout especially during solo sections. The album is actually a bit too paino / keyboard heavy for me as I tend to opt for a more traditional guitar fronted sound. Vocalist James La... I mean... Goran Edman presents us with a great range, I would have like to have heard some more lower pitch sung parts however.
The band is completed with Magnus Nilsson replacing Magnus Nord on guitars, Andy Rose on bass and Jorg Andrews on Drums. The rhythm section of the band is as talented as both Andersson and Edman and show it throughout the album. Although Magnus' solos are a bit one sided in their phrasing, opting more for straight foward shreddedge then more thought out solo sections which I feel would benefit the album better. This irksome quality also applies to a number of the keyboard solos which could have been made more interesting as well. Being the fantastic musicians these guys are, I'm sure they could have done more interesting solos. The one case where this doesnt apply is in the solo section towards the third quarter of the title track, Optical Illusion, which is total genius and really anthemic in a way.
Overall, as an album it is really thought out and its obvious that a lot of effort went into this. I would listen to this before any Dream Theater album. The album is a bit on the long side but thats alright and in this style it doesnt detract. A bunch of the songs all start off similarly with a piano intro or keyboard intro leading into the song which makes it a little repetitive. There are also a few spots with some melodies that sound really familiar. The intro to "The Ashen Soul" I could swear I heard on one of those really cheap classical CD sets that you can buy. I think its one of Bach's Inventions or something. Whatever. Basically, it boils down to: If your a Dream Theater fan you are gonna love this. If your not a Dream Theater fan, you might find something here that is a bit more interesting than Dream Theater themselves. Of course, you can listen to this and immediately hate it as many undoubtably would.
TIME REQUIEM : Optical Illusion : Regain Records
When I first cast my eyes on this the third album from the highly influential Time Requiem, I knew that I was in for a sonic treat. The simple fact is that here is a band that don't write rubbish songs or perform to an average standard. Far from it, Time Requiem are the consummate professionals. This can however sometimes leave a slightly sour taste in the mouth, as producing material that is rich with quality does some times come across as a little stale and not as fresh as could be imagined.
I am pleased to report then that 'Optical Illusion' doesn't fall at the last hurdle and although is highly polished and borne of perfectionists, it by no means lacks any lustre, bite or indeed credibility. From the opening strains of 'Sin to Sin' the band are devoid of any flaws and crack on at a steady pace with a symphonic or neoclassical form of Progressive Metal, that takes the listener on a journey through a number of emotions, but doesn't get all wanky in the process.
Stand out tracks for your truly is the aforementioned 'Sin To Sin' and the incredible and emotive soundtrack that is 'Creator In Time'. An epic song that not only highlights the powerful voice of Goran Edmans, but also the incredible musicianship of the other band members who combine in what seems like effortless unison. The voice of Mr Edmans actually reminds me so much of a guy named Harv I used to know who fronted an excellent band called Den Of Thieves, I almost picked up the phone to see if he was moonlighting again.
Time Requiem may not be everyone's choice of musical expression, but I have to say that this is an excellent album for what it is. As the bands website clearly states: "The musicianship is stunning, the songs enticingly progressive, perfectly composed and performed. This is an album for the true neoclassic metal connoisseur". Who the hell are we to argue with that!