(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by the German progressive metal band Disllusion, which will be released on September 6th by Prophecy Productions.)
As we’re all aware, music isn’t a competition. But it’s hard, dare I even say impossible at times, not to compare and contrast artists/albums and pit them against one another, weighing up their relative merits, in order to conclude, subjectively at least, which is somehow “better”.
Consider, for example, the comeback album from German Prog-Metal sensations Disillusion.
For those unfamiliar with the band, over the course of these seven tracks you’ll encounter echoes of the cinematic style of Devin Townsend, the epic riffage of Insomnium, the moody melancholy of In Mourning, and the intricate songwriting of Opeth, all interwoven in a way that’s not only far more cohesive and coherent than the most recent release by the former, but which suggests that the latter three will have to produce something truly special in the next few months if they’re not going to be outdone.
For those who already know Disillusion, however… all I really need to say is that The Liberation isn’t just the long-awaited follow-up to their semi-legendary debut (sorry Gloria fans) but might just be even better.
But while it may be built upon the original blueprint laid down by Back to Times of Splendor, the idea of “progress” is still the key part of the band’s “progressive” identity.
Not only is it a clear evolution of the band’s earlier sound but the songs themselves all clearly evolve and progress as they develop, and whether it’s the shameless extravagance of “Wintertide” or the even more aggressive, but no less complex, strains of “The Great Unknown” – both of which you can listen to right now – the music on The Liberation clearly favours organic growth and development over cheap shock value, focussing on cultivating mood and melody, emotion and energy, rather than the sort of random dissonance and jazzy atonality that many seem to confuse with actual creativity.
It’s clear after just one listen to this album that Disillusion– even after an almost thirteen year absence – are still looking, and thinking, forwards, which is clearly reflected in their songwriting too, with the aforementioned “Wintertide” and the brooding “A Shimmer in the Darkest Sea” (which, in places, is a far better Tool song than anything on the new Tool album) both in constant forward motion, transitioning from one section to the next with the ease and grace of a dancer perfectly attuned to the rhythms of their own body.
But while the overall structure of the material – particularly the incredibly elaborate title track – follows a progressively linear path, a closer look at them soon reveals the hypnotic hooks and hidden patterns contained within, such that each successive movement of each successive song constantly calls back to, and iterates upon, the key themes from its predecessors, ensuring that, even if a song ends in an entirely different place from where it began, the spiralling threads of continuity are still easy to follow.
In fact, for all its overt complexity and consciously proggy proclivities, The Liberation is a deceptively easy album to listen to, to the point where it’s also incredibly easy to lose yourself in it and, as a result, lose almost a full hour (the entire record clocks in at just under fifty-eight minutes) without realising it.
Perhaps nowhere is this dichotomy made more clear than in the penultimate pairing of “Time to Let Go” and “The Mountain”, with the former being the closest thing the album has to an obvious “single”, built around a striking blend of soaring guitar leads and a singularly captivating chorus (courtesy of Andy Schmidt’s insanely soulful clean vocals, which are somehow better than ever), while the latter is a titanic twelve minutes of simmering Prog-Doom – part Devin Townsend, part Opeth, part Ulver – which demands every ounce of your attention to truly appreciate all that it has to offer.
An album like this, where every song (including scene-setting instrumental opener “In Waking Hours”), and every musician, plays an integral role as part of the greater whole, isn’t always easy to pick apart without losing a sense of what makes it truly special, and you’ll note that not only have I demurred from giving an in-depth description of each individual track, but I’ve also refrained (for the most part) from praising the individual performances separately.
The reason for this is simple. While I do want to give you a clear sense of this record’s flavour, I also want you all to be able to discover everything it has to offer – all its unexpected surprises and intricate instrumental elements – for yourselves.
Come this Friday you’ll all have the chance to do so in full, and I truly hope you’ll find (or make) the time to check out an album which I consider to be not only the best of the band’s career, but also one of the best albums of this (or any other) year.