Review Summary: Looks can be deceiving.
I’m going to skip all my normal, retarded introductory descriptions and comparisons and get right to the point here, since I’m sure everything which can be called “deep” and “atmospheric” about this album has been said a hundred times over. Disillusion is a German progressive metal band who seemed to tickle all those Opeth-loving fanboys in just the right place here. The shock value was high, yes, since normally debuts of this quality are few and very far between, and eventually bands who accomplish this end up driving themselves off a cliff with some half-assed follow up. This is Disillusion, and this is Back To Times Of Splendor
, their debut album which just so happens to be pretty good.
Classic? Not really. At first glance, this album is so awesome it seems almost revolutionary for progressive metal. However, after numerous listens and constant critique of the same six songs, it hits you. This album is just plain good. That shock value which comes with the first couple listens is completely gone, and the grandeur of the album’s longer songs drifts down somewhere between boring and uninspired. Things begin to bug you which never did before, and the flaws of this album begin to grow more and more apparent. The riffs which once sounded fresh and original now seem repetitive and tiresome. The vocals which seemed clean and well delivered now appear as annoying and awkward.
However, the album still remains as something which is worth noting, a fine debut which has some of the most captivating moments in recent memory. For one, take a look at the absolutely brilliant layered riff which closes out the last two minutes of “The Sleep Of Restless Hours”. It represents everything which is so great about Back To Times Of Splendor
, the beauty in simplicity. It repeats over and over again, so sad yet beautiful it’s quite an experience to listen to. Sadly, that is where the interest in that songs begins, since the previous 15 minutes are a mess of riffs (only a handful of them good) and vocalist Andy Schmidt going back and forth between some really lackluster screamed vocals and his hit-or-miss clean vocals, not to mention whole minutes of wasted dead space which seems to be there just to fill time.
The other long(er) song, the title track “Back To Times Of Splendor” is a much, much better song and eases its way in and out of pretty heavy verses and calm, melodic riffs with both the acoustic and electric guitar, as well as some harmonic leads and solos. A song which you can call progressive and really mean it, the title track is the pinnacle of the album, with the slope sharply dropping off each end of this song. “Fall” is also another song which deserves mention, since it is tied with the calm (but also pretty boring) track “A Day By The Lake” as the shortest track on the album, but manages to pack into it’s running time more things worth noting than the 17 minute “The Sleep Of Restless Hours”. The chorus is catchy as hell and will probably make you smile with an awe-filled glee with each subsequent listen, the song tied together by an excellent guitar solo which simply puts the icing on the cake in terms of making this song a standout track.
The hit-and-miss array of tracks contained here continues with the lackluster opener “And The Mirror Cracked” which soon became a quick skip-over due to its tendency to sound like every single other song on the album, yet have absolutely noting worth noting. “Alone I Stand In Fires” is decent also, with a really terrible beginning. It manages to pull itself together at the end, making it a good song worth sticking around for, since the end is very powerful and heavy yet still manages to be unique and interesting.
There is really nothing left to say about this album. It is a roller coaster ride of often amazing (“Back To Times Of Splendor”, “Fall”, and the last two minutes of “The Sleep Of Restless Hours”) progressive metal riddled with the wreckage of tracks which simply tried too hard (“And The Mirror Cracked”, “A Day By The Lake”, and the first 15 minutes of “The Sleep Of Restless Hours”). It is still certainly an album worth listening to, it is quite a rewarding experience in the end, but be careful. Don’t be deceived by the veil of awe this album shoves down your throat upon first listen. Take a few more dedicated listens to the entire
album, pay attention to everything. It will either do one of two things, the first being absolutely nothing (thus retaining your initial shock and awe), or it will reveal this album for what it objectively sounds like; a very good progressive metal album with some glaring flaws, keeping it so close yet so far away to the realm of classic prog albums.