Review Summary: Back To Times of Splendor is a delight to any metal fans ears as it rages expertly through brutal, melodic, tranquil and at times, fanatical musicianship, that all add up to the near flawless masterpiece Disillusion has produced.
I'm going to be honest, I am most certainly not a veteran of the melodic, death or progressive metal scene. The earlier years of my life were spent in innocent joy of the more radio-friendly bands of the past decade. Slowly but surely, I moved on to heavier acts, growing to become a fan of metalcore and a few of the 'scene' bands. From there, I progress further, year by year, into the lesser-known side of music. Although I am cautious with my approach into the heavier scene, a recommendation from a friend of mine brought me across Back To Times of Splendor
, by Disillusion
. So, the obedient comrade I am, I downloaded the album and cranked my speakers up.
The album begins with And The Mirror Cracked
, an explosive 8 and a half minute beginning to what turns out as one of the most consistent metal records to date. Not a second is wasted, as the band get right into it with a high tempo riff progressing faster and more technical until Vurtox's, the lead vocalist, growl interrupts, not letting up the pace at all. With ease, the song transitions smoothly into a melodic section, allowing Vurtox to display his clean voice which is just as fitting as his growl, with a more deep power metal-esque tone. Three and a half minutes in, the explosive beginning is brought to a halt, replaced with a tribal drum beat accompanied by a mellow, relaxing guitar lead. Piano soon replaces the guitar, shortly followed by Vurtox, showing magnificent contrast from the starting of the song. And yet, straight from the tranquil moment, with the song falsely leading the listener to believe it was near it's end charges straight back, the opening riff breaking the soft piano tone. Vurtox growls demonically;
I have been demure
Cries were silent but heart ablaze.
have been one of his shadows
Condemned to stray an unlit maze.
My feet are numb, soles torn wide open
After endless years of clambering
My path is lit and leads me north.
The song ends as heavily as it starts, providing a perfect start to this 6 song epic. The album then progresses to Fall
, luring the listener in with a charging riff before slowing down to a more abstractly arranged moment of vocals. The song continues to mix the aggressive, but not overwhelming, riffs with the slower-paced melody until 2 and a half minutes in, when the song progresses from an excellent vocal bridge to a equally impressive guitar solo that fits the atmosphere of the song perfectly, careful not to out-do the solo or shred for the sake of shredding. Vurtox's vocals are particularly good on this song. Only two songs in and already, you have to stand back and marvel the ability this band has to create a flowing, technically efficient and atmospheric song. Alone I Stand in Fires
comes on next, emanating with emotion in the lead instrumental, joined by Vurtox's voice, again perfectly fitting the atmosphere of the song, singing like a man tormented. An anguished growl overlaps leading to a short melodic period before the chorus. Fanatically, the tempo rises, Vurtox's growls dominate the song, and the drums are pounded faster then heard before. The lead guitar breaks off, creating a beautiful melodic bridge between the raging growls. Vurtox breaks back into his clean voice, the band following accordingly though not letting the pace down. Abruptly, the pace of the song is slowed to a near stop, ending with a lone piano.
The title track, Back To Times of Splendor
begins with a violin, introducing it for the first time in the album thus far. The drum and guitar work illuminate the beauty of the violin incredibly, highlighting it rather then overpowering it. Unlike last song, Vurtox sounds stronger and more dominating in this song, with a magnificent clean performance on the chorus, as he proclaims;
There is a road that I must travel
May it be paved or unseen
May I be hindered by a thousand stones
Still onward I'd crawl down on my knees
The drummer leads the song into a softer interlude, proving that he has just as much ability to dictate the atmosphere of the song as the vocals or lead guitar do. The vocals are constantly shifted in this song, from powerful growl, to raging scream, to deep melodic, to a faster paced clean voice. Vurtox proves his singing versatility and ease with transition especially well here. From around 7 and a half minutes in, the most beautiful part of the song kicks in. With a complete change of atmosphere, the bass steadily brings the song to the incredible guitar solo, once again not overwhelming, but played to fit the song perfectly. The vocals dont distract the listener from the instrumental until 10 minutes in, when another guitar solo kicks in, followed by the harsh growls again. A Day By the Lake
slowly follows, a song that breaks from the heavier vibe of the album, but certainly detracts nothing from the overall atmosphere. If anything, the song compliments the heavier songs well, with the powerful instrumental pieces displayed constantly throughout it. The vocals are sung cleanly throughout the entire song. At nearly 5 minutes, this is the shortest song on the album. The significance of the song plays more on the fact that it allows a melodic and softer break in the album (but by no means is this song a filler track), which can almost prepare the listener for the 17 minute effort that comes next with The Sleep of Restless Hours
Though I despair the thought of the end, the acoustic guitar and drums lure my interests in, before a tremendous riff blazes through the better half of the intro. The song really gets going once the vocals are introduced, with Vurtox failing to dissapoint once again, howling his way to the conclusion of the album without fault or failure in any aspect of his performance. The layering of the song adds a great effect, with a near melancholy piano in the background of the rising guitars bringing the song to it's emotional pinnacle. Once again, the tempo rises to it's maximum before directly slowing the song down to it's bare minimum. The instrumental performance in this song is amazing, with each band member pulling his own weight and more to keep this song flowing. One of the key elements to the appeal of the song, and the entire album as a whole, is the fact that the pieces are played to fit, not to be overly extravagent or almost arrogant. Each band member finely displays the ability to keep his place in the song, rather then breaking off into a complex, technical tangent that detracts from the atmosphere of the song.
And with a final clean note from Vurtox, the man who's voice brings every element of this masterpiece together, the album falls silent. A final instrumental performance is played before the album, sadly, comes to it's end. My only regret; that I didn't find this album sooner. One of the finest pieces to ever grace the library of my iTunes, Disillusion
's Back To Times of Splendor
is something every metal fan should enjoy and an album that should by no means ever be passed up. The subtle beauty, the tremendous complexity, and the magnificent atmosphere of this album is incomparable. From the explosive beginning of And The Mirror Cracked
to the fanatic high-paced moments of Alone I Stand in Fires
to the raw emotional instrumental in A Day By The Lake
, this album does not dissapoint.