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Disillusion - Back To Times Of Splendor - 80%

ConorFynes, April 11th, 2011

Disillusion is one of those bands I went into listening blindly, going in based solely on the good words of others concerning this album. One of those bands that seems to suddenly cranked their spirits into high gear for this one, the band's debut album has impressed me, to say the least. From what I've heard, the band had only come out with a handful of decent, if not great demos and this came as something of a shock to anyone that had heard the band before. Precedent aside however, 'Back To Times Of Splendor' is an excellent piece of melodic progressive metal that can feel scattered at times, but really leaves an impression on the listener that begs a listen after another.

When speaking of the sound of this band, there is a real mix of disparate progressive metal styles here. Of course, there is the atypical time signatures that one might generally associate with the work of Dream Theater, but there are also many heavier elements here, such as the influence of melodic death metal and the Scandinavian 'viking metal' sound. In any case, the end result is heavy metal that maintains a very melodic sound, and balances equal shares of technicality and epic symphonic sounds. Rounding off the sound is the vocal work of a man credited here only as Vurtox; whose deep voice has a great vibrato to carry even the weakest musical moments here through.

In terms of the songwriting, there are both shorter and longer tracks here, both of which are given a progressive metal do-over. The album's opener 'And The Mirror Cracked' gives the greatest first impression, firing on all cylinders as it opens up furiously. Here, the growls of Vurtox can also be heard, which generally do not amount to much, unfortunately. It is the clean vocals that dominate each track here however. The album is quite good and filled with great musical ideas. It comes close to even being a masterpiece, although this title is robbed due to a feeling that some of the ideas are less developed than they should have been. While the epics here are quite well composed and rarely feel boring, it does feel as if the album could have done without some of the fat on its bones.

Not so much, hey. - 62%

damaged_doll, November 24th, 2008

This particular album gave me a lot to think about. Not because I found the music to be particularly thought provoking but because every review I read had such exaltations of awe and majesty. I thought to myself, “Shit, this fucker’s got to be something!” I was waiting impatiently for my hallelujah moment but it failed to arrive. I thought to myself (a second time), “You’re too excited – listen again without so much forceful intent.” And nope, still not feeling this. I’m not this is a god awful album but I can’t figure out why this is so beloved by so many.

Firstly, the lyrics: a bit cheesy. I myself enjoy the odd piece of cheese as part of a balanced diet but this could bring on a bout of IBS. Maybe I’m being too harsh but it sounds like the lyrics were written in another language and then translated by someone who had learnt the language at university and couldn’t quite grasp the vernacular.

Secondly, the voice: so-so. There are some very nice clean vocals here and there are some really nu-metal stylings as well. Needles to say that the latter gets on my nerves. The harsher growls are ok, more than passable.

Thirdly, the music. I have to say that is not something that appeals to me. I found the attempts at symphonic and instrumental inclusion a bit awkward. The violins are ill-suited and a bit plastic (processed cheese, if you will). There are lots of trimmings on this record but not much substance and yet there are one or two places where I feel a bit of progression coming on and then … disappointment.

Maybe they were trying to do a little too much too soon.

But for my personal tastes Back to Times of Splendor has left my ears a little poorer.

Alone It Stands. - 95%

Perplexed_Sjel, September 17th, 2008

Melodic death isn’t viewed, by the majority, as a stand out genre within the metal industry. To the majority of hardcore death metal fans, it’s one sub-genre that doesn’t deserve publicity or recognition for it’s exploits due to it’s horrendous sound. It happens to be a sub-genre within death metal that gets a lot of mainstream attention with bands like Amon Amarth pulling in the crowds of impressed youngsters, generally. Personally, I’m not a fan of music tagged melodic. Whether it comes to black or death metal, the melodic sub-genre has never really appealed to my nature, but anything tagged ‘atmospheric‘ appeals to me. Odd. However, this is where Disillusions ‘Back To Times Of Splendor’ comes into the ragged picture to shed some light on a sub-genre considered so unappealing to die hard fans of metal. Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t those out there whom enjoy both the traditional values of a genre and the more popular sub-genres. ‘Back To Times Of Splendor’ bridges an important gap between the experimental side to the sub-genre and the fans who have set opinions on melodic death metal. It is records like this, by Germany’s Disillusion, that show the tired ways of a dying genre in a new light. Personally, after much apprehension and far too much assumptions, I can safely say I love this record.

Do not be deceived by the melodic tag because Disillusion have more than one side to their music. First and foremost, Disillusion cannot be considered straight up melodic death metal due to their progressive influences and superb avant-gardé styling which tends to have a major influence over the general sound of the band. The biggest positive to take from this record is the sole performance of Vurtox or Andy Schmidt, who could easily produce his own music, as a one man act I’d imagine. According to the detailed outline of the record, Vurtox has a lot of control over the creativity and direction that Disillusion wish to take their music in and to me, this is a major positive. As stated, Vurtox controls the following elements of the record, ‘Vocals, guitars, acoustic guitars, bass, keys and orchestral arrangements’. He even writes the lyrics! It’s a number of these elements, such as the acoustic, lead guitars and keys that often make this a surprising outing. Even the vocal exploits took me by surprise due to the fact that Vurtox uses a combination of clean and harsh vocals. Using varied vocals allows for more exploration in terms of moods that the atmospheres can take on. While the harsh vocals may be limited in there approach, the clean vocals are not, which is perfectly shown on the symphonic splendor of ’The Sleep Of Restless Hours’.

The former being something I would not have expected on a record of this nature, but perhaps that’s where the progressive metal influence stems from, as well as the obvious experimental nature of the instrumentation which relies on a variety of instruments to depict it’s themes. From the obvious bass, guitar and drums to the interesting blend of clean vocals, which enhances the overriding melody of the songs, keyboards (which often give a symphonic feel) and even the glorious melancholic melodies of the piano. Due to the fact that Germany’s Disillusion like to blend as many different forms of instruments into the mix, the band has a varied emotional response. Drawing on aggressive and even sad emotions with the use of acoustics and then touching on ecstatic feelings of elation and joy with the catchy lead guitars. The mood shifts are both interesting and intriguing and are achieved by a variety of instruments which can change both tones and textures at the drop of a hat, thus adding to the overwhelming positive thoughts in response to the material in the listener. There is, perhaps overwhelming at times, a complexity about the instrumentation that may put some people off, but given the general consensus, I doubt it.

Experimentation isn’t a drawback for me on this record, it enhances every element of it. The title track is an undeniable example of the brilliance that has gone in to creating this piece of work. I’ve always taken melodic death metal with a pinch of salt, but the catchy lead guitars are definitely a product of a more serious branch of melodic death metal. However, considering the smart use of two guitarists, who layer there riffs, this record won‘t come across as typical of the genre. The title track is the perfect example of how to blend the splendid influences of both melodic death and progressive. The catchy riffs which take hold of the listener like a disease, the clean vocals which will undoubtedly have you singing along and the stunning nature of the orchestral elements, which adds an extra slice of brilliance to the avant-gardé mixture in many different senses. The production is perfectly adept to the proceedings which follow from beginning to end. It has a clean feel, therefore giving each aspect of the instrumentation time to air there individual slants of joyous and jovial styling, as well as any opposing feelings that flow through the records varied perspective. Atmospherically, this record is perfect.

The Best Prog-Death Album Ever? - 100%

Damnation_Terminated, August 11th, 2007

This album depresses me. After listening to it through a few times I have realised that I will perhaps never hear an album as good again! All other such albums must fade in comparison.

A friend recommended Disillusion to me, so I thought I would check them out, not knowing anything about them, except that the friend in question likes, as I do, progressive death metal, and his opinion was, therefore, to be trusted. What I wasn't prepared for was the pure heavy musical brilliance of the band, with brutal riffs, incredible solos and splendid growling vocals blending perfectly with some smooth lighter work, the instruments of which include a piano and violins.

Each track is diverse in musical style and heaviness, providing an overall aesthetic that means you can listen to the album many times through without getting bored of it. The singer uses the "brutal" death metal vocals when necessary, without too much screaming, and has a very good "clean" singing voice as well, which he also puts to appropriate use.
The album has a couple of longer tracks, which contribute to the albums epic feel, providing an almost mini-album within themselves.

One cannot help but compare this band to the other progressive death metal giants, Opeth. Now I am a huge Opeth fan, but I can't say that they have done anything as epic in scale or as musically diverse as this album.
In conclusion this is definitely one of my all time favourite albums, and will recommend it to anyone who is willing to listen. Without a doubt one of the best (if not the best) progressive death metal album out there, and in my opinion one of the best albums, period.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go and find the guy who told me about them, and kiss him soundly...

Bring back the times of splendor!!!! - 90%

The_Hicksy, January 5th, 2007

By far one of my favorite metal albums on earth, Back to Times of Splendor holds both furious buildups and epic mellow interludes.

Firstly, this album is a definate recommendation to any fans of Opeth, Between the Buried and Me or possibly even Arsis and Into Eternity. Not one track on this album can dissapiont the lovers of melodic and/ or progressive styles of metal, with incredible intsrumentation which has formed a sound which gives each song its own atmosphere, breathing with the lyrical content and meanings within.

Back to Times of Splendor has a great mix between heavy, powerful choruses and very melodic and "beautiful" soft interludes and verses. The vocals are incredible, with nice transitions between clean, harmonized and growling vocals to set the moods throughout each song. The guitar work is nothing short of brilliant, plenty of variety in styles and effects gives great depth in the music. The drums are also worth great mention, lots of off-beats and seemingly perfect placement of cymbal crashes brings the atmosphere of the music out. But what makes the album what it is, the orchestral accompaniment, especially the violins, is entwined perfectly througout the album to complete the sound wihch can only be known as Back to Times of Splendor.

After hearing Gloria, which i was excited about hearing by the way, all i can conclude with is; BRING BACK THE TIMES OF SPLENDOR!!!

One Hell of a Quality Metal Album - 95%

IcemanJ256, November 5th, 2006

From the epic violin-driven opening of "Back to the Times of Splendor" to the violent outbreak in "Alone I Stand In Fires," to the acoustic strumming undertone in "A Day By the Lake," This CD has every morsel of diversity you could ever wish for in a Progressive Death album without going overboard. For a debut album it is astonishingly refined and well-crafted, and will soar past your expectations. Everything from the riffs, all the instrumental parts, the solos, the song structures, the general feel, are virtually flawless. Not quite the vocals though.

The song structures here are vast, complex, winding journeys of many different ideas, excellently flowing together, maintaining a certain energy with many heavy and upbeat parts, but also a decent share of calmer and symphonic parts. The calmer parts, sometimes even some strings or piano, last just the right amount of time, providing a nice contrast once in a while and don't take away from the course of the song. The title track has a pretty long calm section with some acoustic guitars and the majority of "A Day by the Lake" is acoustic driven.

Most of the lengthy heavier sections have so much going on in a short period of time, so many different sections of riffs changing so fast, it can almost seem like too much, however I don't look at it as a bad thing. It really adds to the "replay value" of the album because songs are so intricate you can't possibly remember them and every time you listen to it is like the first time. Obviously they write very lengthy songs as well, there is just under an hour in these six songs, with one song passing the 14-minute mark and one over 17 minutes.

I think there are actually more clean vocals than death growls, and both this vocalist's talents are good, and the vocal melodies are astounding. Death growls are ferocious, punishing and adrenaline-pumping. Clean vocals took a little getting used to; they can be a bit exaggerated at times, but not nearly as bad as most Power Metal vocalists. Overall they are powerful and diverse, adding a certain unique quality to the band.

Somehow, in a way that I can't quite explain, this album is one of the very few metal albums with growled/harsh vocals that doesn't sound either depressing or angry. (The only exceptions I can think of at the moment are Arcturus and Orphaned Land) The majority of it sounds very joyous, and simply "epic," while continuing to pack a hell of a punch. Of course, I'm not saying depressing or angry aren't feelings you want in a metal album.

Fans of Opeth, Nevermore, Novembre, Orphaned Land, etc. should definitely check this band out. They're the most promising prog-metal band I can think of (in terms of, brand NEW bands, with like one album). And look, they have a new album coming out in 2 weeks!

The Ultimate Album - 100%

SCMugen, May 15th, 2006

I'm not a very picky guy. Really, musicwise, it doesnt take much for an album to please me, but there are very few albums that I consider really great and an album that gets there has to be very, very good.
A very, very good album is for example, an album that stays in my daily playlist for more than half a year. An album that there is not a single day I didnt listen to it in the past six months. An album that on every listen you discover something new in one of the songs. Disillusion's debut album from 2004 fits in all of the above. I can hardly put into words how much I love this album.

The album starts with the song "...And The Mirror Cracked". Strong Meshuggah-style riffs and fast drumming from the first second, with some layered clear guitar that pops in and out at times. The singer, Vurtox, sings in a perfect combination of clean melodies and agressive growls. Sometime halfway through the song there's a slowdown with some acoustic guitars with the electrics every once in a while. The song starts to fade with some calm piano notes, and just when you think it's over the song's harsh opening enters again in some sort of a closure, ending the song the exact same way it started.

The second song is "Fall", one of the shortest songs in the album and one of the only two songs where Vurtox sings only in a clean way. Dont get me wrong, this is no ballad or soft song in any way – throughout the whole piece there're crushing heavily-distortioned riffs. This song ends with a dramatic stop right after the last chorous ends, which leaves the listener shocked with a craving for more.
The next song, "Alone I Stand In Fires", starts with a sample of a scared man's breathing, sort of an intro for the song. Through the first couple of minutes of the song Vurtox sings clean with some telephone-like effect applied on his voice, and then switches to his charismatic grunt for the deep, heart-touching, well written chorus. The riffs speed up a little along with some aggressive atmosphere that slows down a little right before the second chorus.

The title song, "Back To Times of Splendor", starts from the same note the last song ended, with a beautiful piano-violin combination soon joined by one of the best guitar riffs ever written. Every time that riff starts, I go fucking nuts… Everything about this riff is amazing, from the technicality to the perfect violin and distorted guitar contrast. After the intro part ends, Vurtox's growls starts accompanied by a note-imitating guitar riff. After a swift breakdown around the beginning of the fourth minute, the song starts to amass power as the tempo builds up to a very aggressive grind-ish segment at around the seventh minute that ends with sudden break of silence that's quickly filled in with bird squeaking and rain samples. The samples merge with a relaxing bass & acoustic line that keeps up for a couple of minutes until the aggressive riffs and fast drumming takes the lead until the end of the song. If there's one song I have to pick to be the ultimate metal song of all times, THIS IS THE ONE. Every single aspect of this piece is flawless. Perfectly written, perfectly composed and perfectly performed. Simply perfect.

The fifth song, "A Day By The Lake", was the song I considered to be the weakest in this album. Although it's not really a bad song, it felt like the essence of the song was unclear because of the long intro segment and sudden ending, but soon it grew on me and everything became crystal clear. While not being the most technical song, without really any memorable riffs or brilliant solos, it's still an amazing song that really achieves it's goal. Vurtox sings the amazing moving lyrics with perfect melody, with the acoustic guitars and bass lines in the background, really gives this song the sad, touching and thoughtful mood it aims for.

The last one is also the longest one, "The Sleep of Restless Hours" starts with an acoustic build-up riff that bursts into a fast and vim segment with some furious energies from Vurtox's harsh vocals, that keeps up until the catchy, beautifully written chorus. A few minutes later the aggressive riffs turn into a calm, soothing, acoustic accompanied part, that starts another chorus, this time Vurtox sings with everything he has, which creates one of the most amazing choruses I've ever heard. After that last chorus the song breaks again to complete silence (actually there's low volume sort of static sound but that's almost silent) that breaks progressively into a powerful, mighty, simply astounding 4-minute instrumental ending. The band really puts every bit of energy into this ending, so it really feels like the grand finale, not only of this specific song but of this entire album, which makes you crave for more.

Now I bet all of you already looked at the score and saw the perfect 100 score I gave this album. I was totally against the "Perfect Album" idea and I swore that I'll never give any album this score, but that was before I found Back To Times of Splendor. If I could, I'd give this album 120/100. Even 200/100 and much more. Every single moment of this album is filled with excellent musical performance. It has the most deep and meaningful lyrics I've ever seen, the most perfect balance I've ever heard. It magnificently combines elements and influences with such different branches of metal and music in general, creating one epic, splendid masterpiece. I'm soon going to be out of adjectives and I'm afraid I don’t know enough of them to describe how incredible this album is without doing a massive injustice with it. The only proper way for me to end this review is quoting "A Day By The Lake":

And I cry just as you
Knowing, this is coming to an end
But still I am hoping that fall will never come.
But it came.

Splendid indeed! - 95%

Sum, July 30th, 2005

Man, i don't know where to begin. When i first listened to this band, i heard the song Fall, and to tell the truth, it didn't really grab my interest. However, the more i listened to it, the more i came to appreciate the great music that Disillusion provides.

Then, i moved on to the next short song A Day by the Lake, and i noticed this song didn't have the heaviness or progressive side of the other song, but instead, and epic melodic feel. Of course, i loved to hear that, and i thought : "if they can pull off so different songs, i bet the longer songs won't get boring" and oh boy, was i right.

It's in this song Back to Times of Splendor, that i first realized that the vocalist of this band was so damn good. Not only can he give out a great variety of vocals, he can do it well. His harsh vocals vary and always fit the mood of the part in the song, and his clean vocals are some of the best i've heard. Of course, the use of both harsh and clean vox greatly contribute to making varying songs/parts.

Now, the other musicians didn't particularly stun me, however, the guitars can deliver powerful rhythms, soft leads, and like the vocals, contribute to the overall feeling. The production is almost perfect: the only problem might have been that there that the gain on the rhythm guitars is a bit too agressive (slightly unpleasant while listening through ear-buds)

Highlight song :
Back to times of Splendor
Usually, i'm not the biggest fan of long songs, they often make me lose interest. But this one kept me hooked until the very end. It has a perfect mix of soft, melodic, epic, harsh, and chaotic parts, that all flow very well. For example, when the chaotic part is raging, and it quickly turns into that glorious one, it adds even more impact and "victory feeling". The repitition in parts is ver subtle, making the song interesting for all 14 minutes, without ever getting "stagnant". Truly, this is a masterpiece.

I can't even compare this band to any other one that i know, because they are just too unique and special. And there is also too much variety in the music for me to reccomend to say "if you like prog..". It's just GOOD. If you ever come across this album, i strongly reccomend that you get it, it's something every metal head should hear.

progressive; one of the best of '04 - 93%

yogibear, January 29th, 2005

This is a release that is pretty much one of the great progressive metal records of 2004. The group “Disillusion” is a 3 man band from Germany. The group features the music of Vurtox. He is the band leader here and also has Rajk Barthel on guitars and Jens Maluschka on drums. Various musicians help fill out on some bass, piano and drums loops here and there. Vurtox plays guitars; both acoustic and electric, bass, keys and orchestral arrangements. Oh and he also does the vocals of which I can hear 3 distinct vocal styles.

This work was recorded over a 2 year period and it shows in the ways that the music is layered with lots of neat and cool sounds that almost completely fill the entire sonic spectrum. The production is expansive with all the instruments well represented although some of the lead guitars seem a little buried in the mix. Its almost like its Vurtox’s labor of love in the way all the sounds seem to be in place and not much is left out.

Words seem hard to come up with to describe this bands unique mixing of all the most extreme metal that only adds up to a most sublime metal cd I’ve heard in a long long time. The Metal Blade label signed them due to the strength of one 2 song demo. Musically these guys play melodic Death Metal with hints of Black metal, classic rock, metal and also some symphonic darkness in the background soundscapes.

On all the pieces there is so much going on that one has to take sections of each song to describe what’s happening. There are 6 songs that add up to 56:50.

The song I like the best is called “back to times of splendor”. It lasts 14:39 and by the time it ends you wonder where did the time go as this one is just simply a very well conceived and tight song with many subsections that are interesting and awesome. The song starts out with violin playing over lush keyboards laying out an orchestral motif. Around the 45 second mark the song explodes into a medium fast tempoed death metal chord/riff section. There is a transition that is kind of off sounding but it works ok. The full band is chugging along with the violin playing almost inaudibly over the top. At the 3 minute mark the “clean nervous very tense” voice begins singing. The song is about memories and reflections of past occurrences. The music changes to a heavy power metal 4/4 section with nice guitar melodies and the drums rolling along with the riffs. The solo guitar is very edgy and trebly. At the 4:30 mark the music slows down with spoken vocals “telling of lesson’s learned”, this section has a very killer riff and guitars. From around the 4:45 - 5:45 the music speeds up with the clean vocalist going slightly insane, “I must have seen it coming!”. The section goes on like this until about the 7 min mark where everything quiets down with thunder, rain and birds chirping over a keyboard synthesizer chordal section. Another change lets the bass and drums play a very cool medium fast figure that lasts until around the 8 min mark. Very sublime acoustic guitar begins playing a nice figure that is doubled tracked with another acoustic guitar playing arpeggios that make this a very nice section. Electric guitar takes a solo around the 8:38 point with the acoustic guitar rejoining, most exquisite. Clean vocals begin singing around the 9:12 mark about “morning sun beyond the clouds”. At the 10:08 mark the heavy early death metal section comes back with full band raging and a very distorted guitar playing a solo. Next section has alternating vocals styles of clean and death metal singing until about the 12 min mark where he talks about a “dungeon”. Death metal vocals at 12:30 mark with a very cool riff section that is made for head banging is next. The heavy section mutates and slows a bit to where the drums roll and the music ands at 14:39.

Now this is one of the longer tracks on this cd and it goes by without much in the way of boring the listener as so much is going on all the time. The other long track is called “the sleep of restless hours” and lasts 17:02 but while very good it has some sections or bits that sound like a throwback to 80’s metal. The shorter tracks are all very good with "Fall" being heavy and hard hitting.

All the tracks are uniformly great and do take some listening to really hear and get just what is going on. This is very good and challenging stuff.

Who the hell are these guys.....? - 92%

KayTeeBee, November 26th, 2004

What the.... How did I find out about this band? Well I picked up BW&BK around July/June and as usual, it came with a sample cd, I found mostly mediocre stuff on there, except for a few song, and among these songs were "Fall" by this band. I was impressed on how melodic and technical it was, so I went ahead and got the cd. I also took a look at this band's discography and Back To Times Of Splendor is their first full-length release, but trust me, they sounds like professionals to say the least. I honestly thought these had existed for year....

This album is a masterpiece - no matter what. It always remains melodic, progressive and technical, something we don't see too much these days. They also get to pull off 14-17 minute songs, and all that is done without being pretentious or without a single sign of repetition or boredom. This album also has very, very brutal death metal sides, just take a listen to "Alone I Stand in Fires", which mixes brutal riffs with calm moments, and the harshest of vocals to the most relaxing type of clean vocals.

THE stand-out track on here is definitely "Fall" (the song provided on the BW&BK sampler). It's one of the shorter songs on the album, but that's not a bad thing at all, since it's not too short. The clean and distorted parts in this are perfectly put together, and the structure is simply perfect.... all that, and of couse with some technical melodic riffage.

I still can't believe this is Disillusion's debut, as I said before, they sound like professionals. A must for everyone.

Killer debut - 88%

crewfan, May 26th, 2004

In a year when everyone seems to be talking about all the upcoming comeback albums, it is ironic that most of the best releases of 2004 happen to be debut albums. DILLUSION have recorded before, but “Back to Times of Splendor” is the first full-length album from the German trio. And while it has a great many flaws, this album still trounces most of the other releases of 2004. The best albums always pull from a variety of influences and styles, and DILLUSION are no exception. It contains elements of several other genres, but if “Back to Times of Splendor” can be categorized at all it is probably best described as progressive melodic death metal. Regardless of the accuracy of this attempt at description, the important thing is that this band defies exact categorization—a trait that is extremely attractive in a time when there is such an abundance of cookie cutter bands.

Another appealing aspect of this offering is the epic compositions. The album contains only six songs and is nearly an hour long. Only two tracks are under five minutes long and three are eight and longer, with the closing track clocking in at over seventeen minutes long. These epic songs give the band ample space to carve out their vision and employ great variety within songs. The songs are at one moment mild with clean vocals, and at the next aggressive with fantastic death metal vocals. Tracks flow from one to another quite nicely and the album has a fairly seamless feel.

The opening track “And the Mirror Cracked” provides a strong introduction to the band’s style, showcasing their aggressive melodic death sound before introducing the more progressive elements of the band. This album gets your attention right away and, fortunately, does a good job of keeping the listener engaged for the duration. The drumming is outstanding and the guitars compliment one another very well. In particular, the band is very effective at using acoustic interludes, a skill that many bands struggle to truly master. “Back to Times of Splendor” is a brilliantly conceived album that contains several layers of sound that are cleverly constructed. This is an album that you can listen to countless times and suddenly discover new things.

The album is brilliantly conceived, but it is also clear that the band have a lot of room for development. “Back to Times of Splendor” is maddening because at one moment it seems absolutely masterful and at the next seems altogether ordinary and even amateurish. This is predominantly due to the uneven clean vocal performance. Like the album itself, at times Vurtox’s vocals are strong, refreshing and enjoyable, at others his voice sounds a little thin and undisciplined and at times a bit off key. This sometimes results in a melodramtic and a slightly cheesy feel. The death metal vocals are criminally underused but killer. The clean vocals are slightly reminiscent of a mixture of Geoff Tate and Maynard James Keenan. In fact, the ethereal yet heavy “A Day by the Lake” wouldn’t sound at all out of place on the new A PERFECT CIRCLE record. Metal purists may bridle at the comparison, but DISILLUSION manage to borrow from many styles and incorporate them into a decidedly metal sound. The instrumentation, while usually quite strong, on occasion doesn’t work well. For example, the violin intro to the title track is effective, but when the violin turns up later in the track, it doesn’t work as well. Still, when the songs are as long and diverse as these, it is only reasonable that a few wrong turns will be made.

While this inconsistency is noticeable, what is truly maddening is that it doesn’t really matter much in the end. Warts and all, “Back to Times of Splendor” is still a fantastic album. Amazing, given the obvious fact that DISILLUSION have yet to produce their best work These guys are an album or two from producing an absolute masterpiece, and it will be exciting to watch them grow. In the meantime, “Back to Times of Splendor” is an album to relish.

promising times of splendor - 95%

diedne, March 16th, 2004

There is something elusive in this album: Even when it's clear wich bands could be somewhat related to the sound of this one, at the time you recognice one of them things change and you are left in confusion again. Yes, this could be a consequence of Edge of Sanity's Crimson album, of both early and late Soilwork styles, of Opeth, if you look from enough distance. But it isn't just that, to make the whole puzzle of the music you need to add more and more pieces, as sometimes you discover a vocal line that you wouldn't be surprised to hear in a Vintersorg album (and then, at times, voices sung in a way that would fit in Tool...), a guitar riff that could be in a Devin Townsend album, another one that would make an Iced Earth fan stain his (or her) underwear, a few acoustical notes that reminds to the begining of some Blind Guardian old stuff. But those sudden flashes never last so long, giving you the idea that these guys had listened a lot of music, and let it run through their veins until they put it again as they like it to be, being this the consequence of a lot of things, and a proud heritage and consequence of the last 15 years of metal.

The music obviously and comfortable fits, at a first listen, into that wide and somewhat saturated "melodic death metal" box, if you aren't very exigent with the mellow and acoustical passages and you don't mind to have two songs with clear voices all the way. But you can't make this band fit near the thousand bands that came from Sweden: it's simple something else than them, more fresh, and a few times more original than the last Dark Tranquillity clone. The first thing one notices is the few songs that come here, and how long they are: Two songs are a few secons below the 5 minutes, but the other have an average time of almost 12 minutes. This, at first, makes one thing that this band must be something similar to Opeth, as at times they are (specially in how they like to persist in beautiful riffs, once the music reachs one of them). But once you dig into the songs you find different structures in the songs, different voices, a not so dim atmosphere as the one that Opeth use to roam. There are shadows and dark spaces through this music, but there is also a lot of anger, light and bright scenes.

Vurtox's voice is one of the hightlights of this album: He sings in a wonderful way, no matter what vocal style he uses. Voices appear more or less half of the times in a clean way, building beautiful melodies that fit perfectly between the melodic layers the guitars create, and the other half of the time they come growls that focus the strong part of the songs, usually reinforced by strong rythmic parts in the guitars (and by the way, something very interesting is the way how he sings the letter R: He seems all but german, when he does that). The guitars themselves sounds very good, both in the leads and the rythmic sections, and don't use to do fast solos, prefering to cut songs into acoustical sections or mellow parts that give a lot of diversity to the songs. Drums sound good enough, even if they aren't anything very spectacular, and there are also some soft keyboards, violins and computer effects (don't be scared, this isn't industrial, I swear) here and there, to underline certain passages.

But then again, there is something elusive in this album when you are listening to it, because it seems to twist into the cd player: The first times I listened to it, I was from time to time looking at the cd track number and at the track lenght, because some songs confuse you to the point that you can think they had ended when they are still going on, so you listen how the music fades, then comes a silence, then another thing starts and suddenly you find hearing again the first lines of the song. And when some songs are supossed to end, they do it in such a fine way that you find yourself listening the following track without realizing the track change. I can't finda better way to describe it than calling it laberynthine music, and maybe it's the best thing of this band.

Going song by song, And The Mirror Cracked starts justifying the melodic death label: A good melody, over a strong rythm. The song goes fast and hight, using growl bocals until the chorus, where one starts to think in Soilwork for a while. But after the chorus ends and the song goes on, when the solo would be expected, the music falls into a mellow part, with acoustic guitars, a piano and Vortex's clean voice all along, until the song seems to end, just to do a restart, fast and furious again, and to the end of the song, this time.

Fall is one of the two short songs of the album, and like the other "short" one it's all sung with a clean voice, at times surrounded by acoustical guitars and great choruses. Being shorter, it doesn't have as many changes as their longer sisters have, but still manages to have a cute solo that could had been on Dark Tranquillity's Projector.

Then here it comes Alone I Stand in Fires. Some clean distorted vocals dig the path until the last line becomes one of those screams that make you hurt your throath when you are singing along. Those screams appear later in a part of the chorus, creating one of the best parts of the album. This song manages to find more chances to change the path, even when it never slows down so much. The song ends in a quiet part from where the next song, Back to Times of Splendor, takes off, using a violin that is soon followed by the usual fast and strong guitars.

This song again uses growls and have some furious guitar passages (remember that, above, about Iced Earth? Just listen to the end of the parts where the violin appears), to emply clean vocals over the choruses. The song goes then though slow parts that go merging slowly into strong sections once again... and have maybe the soft parts of all the album, just to make them explode again when it's time to run again.

A Day by the Lake is the softest song in the album, where clean vocals and acoustic guitars (sometimes well mixed with electric guitars) appear again to tell a beautiful story that doesn't manage to hide a bitter taste, and works very well as a relax point between the previous masterpiece and the ending track.

And remember about Blind Guardian? The Quest for Tanelorn begun in the same shape that The Sleep of Restless Hours does, but then again Disillusion quickly changes things to make you clear that you aren't listening to the power metal of their fellow countrymen. This is the longest song of the album, and concludes showing all the weaponry that the band had brightly used before in the previous tracks: A quick start, rythms that go from frantic speeds to jumpy ones, slower choruses, and a jump into silence that could make a new listener thing that it was over, just to delight him with a few more minutes of music that could be considered as an instrumental outro for the album.