Originally written by Tim Pigeon
I applaud bands that have the ambition to try new things, ones that take fragments from styles all over the metal map, and then merge them together in the hopes of producing something epic and transcendent. Disillusion, hailing from Germany, are one such band. Back to Times of Splendor is their first full-length album, and while there are a few kinks to be worked out, it shows the substantial promise latent in these three Germans. The obvious band to compare them to is Opeth, with slight similarities in sound, but much more so in structure. Two songs exceed 14 minutes in length, and another hits 8:27. Within these marathon tracks there are numerous peaks and valleys, fast parts and slow, hard parts and soft. But where Opeth likes to turn dark acoustic, Disillusion turns to neo-folk influences; and where Akerfeldt & Co. descend into near-death metal, Disillusion break out into melodic death. Certain passages bring to mind the music of Suidakra.
The vocals of Vurtox are among the most impressive attributes of this album. His range of styles is enviable, with a capable shout that is balanced by an impressive singing voice that hits a few different registers and tempos. Although, he occasionally uses sounds effects or sounds enhanced. Maybe that adds to the epicness of it all? The guitarwork of Vurtox and Rajk Barthel is deftly layered and evocative, while sporadic use of keys and violins amplify the atmosphere. Not wanting to leave anyone out, Jens Maluschka does a fine, unflashy job behind the drumkit. This is all tied together with a production that is near-perfect for the lighter passages, but becomes muddier when they crank up the heaviness.
“And the Mirror Cracked” is a great choice for an album opener, as it bursts out of the gate aggressively, but then quickly establishes what Disillusion is all about. Hard verses segue into folky choruses, which then give way to a clean/acoustic interlude, then eventually back to the crunch. The title track is one of those marathon tracks, and that’s too bad because it could be one of the year’s top songs with a few minutes shaved off. Somber violins gently pull you into the song, and the following violin/thrash riff combo is one of the most compelling chunks of metal I’ve heard in awhile. A few awkward segments mar what is otherwise a remarkable buildup in intensity from the complete halt that comes at 7:15 in. The Opeth styling rears its head here, but even more so in the next track, “A Day by the Lake”, which flows much like their song “Harvest”. The sixth and final track, “The Sleep of Restless Hours”, stretches on for a ridiculous 17 minutes. There are plenty of nifty pieces which don’t flow together that well, although the five-minute outro is just fantastic.
Listening to this from beginning to end can be quite a rewarding, yet draining, experience. It’s very apparent that Disillusion display serious potential, and my hope is that age and experience will help them to fully realize that potential on their next album. Regardless, Back to Times of Splendor is a promising, ambitious debut that fans of more adventurous metal will enjoy.