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An Underappreciated Gem - 82%

Spiner202, December 3rd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2005, CD, Battlefield Records

Sometimes a band’s success (or lack thereof) is hard to understand. On the surface, Sweden’s Dark Illusion had all of the traits necessary for success. They’ve got a cool band name and their first album had killer artwork with plenty of catchy songs. They were even in the exact right place at the right time (Sweden during the power metal explosion of the late 1990s and early 2000s). Why is it that this band failed to achieve the success of equally late-arriving peers like Dream Evil or even Sabaton? There could be any number of valid reasons, but it certainly isn’t because of the quality of the music. Instead, it is more likely due to the stylistic differences between Dark Illusion and the rest of the power metal scene. For one thing, Dark Illusion never entirely settled on a style. Their sound is an interesting combination of the USPM of the 1980s alongside the more melodic style of modern European metal bands. Add in some touches of glam metal, and it’s easy to see why Dark Illusion may have been overlooked in favour of the more attractive style of Edguy or HammerFall, for example.

Of course, Dark Illusion’s sound is grounded in melodic power metal. There is plenty of double bass playing on this album, as well as a lot of melody and great hooks. The ill-titled opening track, “Night Knight”, shows the band at their best. This song is speedy and incorporates a plethora of riffs. The interplay between the vocals and harmonized guitars is brilliant, and has the album off to an energetic start. Though no other track can match this one in terms of quality, the first 9 songs are all very impressive tracks. This is one of those albums where you can look at any song title after a single listen, and the chorus will instantly pop into your head. Other highlights include the two ballads: “Warrior” and “Tragedy”. The latter of the two is less epic and far tamer, which is largely why “Warrior” is the superior track. Nevertheless, both songs provide a welcome break from the more upbeat songs.

Aside from these two tracks, most songs are pretty formulaic. They are standard heavy/power metal that usually follow the verse/chorus format of pop music. Every song benefits from the stellar performance of singer Thomas Vikström. His voice is not as high-pitched as many other power metal bands, and this adds some versatility to the album. His singing drives the feel of each song. Certain tracks like “Sensational Walk” display the aforementioned glam influence through Vikström’s vocal lines, which are a bit less grandiose than on the rest of the album. This song also shows how the band can be much less mythological with their lyrics, and is a nice break from the standard fantasy-based approach.

The biggest problem with “Beyond The Shadows” is that it’s too long. In the power metal world, 50 minutes is often par for the course, but the problem that Dark Illusion has is that they have so many songs, and most of them are identical. With the exception of “Night Knight” and “Warrior”, you could cut any song from this album, and it would be better. For this reason, it is the final few tracks that leave the worst impression on the listener. By this point in the album, Dark Illusion has little left to offer in terms of innovative riffing, melodies, or song structures. This is the type of problem that is the result of me nitpicking rather than a major flaw. At the end of the day, all of the songs are relatively enjoyable. This certainly isn’t the reason why Dark Illusion never made it big, and it also is not a reason to skip listening to this album. "Beyond The Shadows" is a worthy listen for those seeking power metal that takes plenty of influence from traditional heavy metal.