Back to Times of Splendor

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A lot of metal fans were left wondering where the hell Disillusion came from upon the release of Back to Times of Splendor. The album, the Germans' first for Metal Blade after an independent debut, blasts off with the eight-and-a-half-minute "And the Mirror Cracked," a busy Dark Tranquillity-style burst of energy that slows down for some power metal (holding the cheese à la Nevermore) and proggy piano before reprising the power chords and dual-melody guitar leads enhanced with keyboards, growls, and clean singing. But what's a mushy mishmash of disparate genre-bending in less capable hands is an inspired turn for Disillusion, which plays to the strengths of the song while showing off impressively technical instrumental capabilities and clever twists and turns -- and, most importantly, sounding natural and unforced in the process. The title track and "The Sleep of Restless Hours" stretch to 14 and 17 minutes respectively (the album is only six tracks long -- any more would be too much to handle), keeping listeners engaged with the incorporation of violins, female vocals, and high-drama keyboards into the mix. Lyrically, the songs are compellingly naïve and poetic, filled with flights of fancy to correspond with the arrangements, which sprawl and tighten like a tightly wound spring, the band never settling for a less-than-stellar riff or melody -- essentially, this outfit is telling terrific stories (some of them drenched in hill 'n' dale fluffy fantasy -- a minor complaint), conveying emotions and flexing their musicianly muscles convincingly. Thankfully, Disillusion understands what it takes to keep flag-waving metalheads on their toes, the band keeping overwrought bombast and brutality at bay with their big brains, and indeed, the dizzying Back to Times of Splendor will make your head spin, enough so you'll go back and listen again in order to dissect its multi-hued, marbled, ornately landscaped songs. How refreshing.

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