Review Summary: Happy Christmas everybody!
In the early 90s, prog really was on its deathbed. Stuck between the radio hits of the 80s and the OK Computer
-headed revival, and kept on the ground by alternative rock's domination of both critical and commercial avenues, bands operating in the genre knew from the off that they had no chance of success. What this meant in practice was that the members were free to indulge every prog whimsy, knowing that the only people who'd hear their music were diehard prog fans. The likes of Iluvatar (a 6-piece from Baltimore) could therefore live out every flight of fancy, free of pressure - they could sing about fairies and epic battles and Norse mythology and geek literature and the Bible and their Facebook relationship status with Channing Freeman and plagues and gifted children and Aesop, while playing mindless solos for hours.
In other words, Iluvatar is super gay.
Honestly, if Rush were 2112, this album is 204409. It's prog to the nth degree - like Grateful Dead, minus the flair. The lyrics occasionally sound like the band chewed up and spat out the works of Plath and Pinter; more often it just sounds like they got off their tits on mushrooms and decided that writing about a gingerbread man was actually a good idea. No less than three of the albums songs - "Eagle", "New Found Key", and "Exodus" - form a suite on this very topic. Another suite, "In The Eye" (which, in the true spirit of prog lameness, is split into three parts), has a Metropolis
meets Blade Runner
concept, following the story of a felon in a futuristic, electric city. Seriously, who writes songs about this?
Bonus track "Medopalis" is symptomatic of everything that's wrong with this album. Stealing a riff from Eric Clapton's "Cocaine", and interspersing it with lines lifted from The Byrd's "Eight Miles High", it's simply a mess. Their attempt at playing around with asymmetric or changing time signatures is both derogatory and reductive, and yields both endearing and annoying responses. Shi
t generally be crazy, yet the capacity of human intelligence seems to limit their capabilities to expand upon any possible creative aptitudes. This inveterate sense of constraint is a great blow to the veracity of mankind’s abilities. Or something. What's certainly true is that you can't imagine anybody enjoying this unless they have a big '80s mullet. There's also at least one song sounds like that one Latin track from the Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack (what was that called again?), forever endearing themselves to weeaboos everywhere.
At least there's a few things to recommend this. Penultimate track "Marionette" beats that Britney diva to the circus concept by fifteen whole years, and boasts a career-defining performance by guitarist Zach. Savage power chords rip through this album highlight, which is almost perfection, but is flawed by the kind of fiddly glam-rock soloing you should only ever hear at a Van Halen show, and a horrible tonal clash that suggests that they really should have hired a piano tuner. The blasts of noise throughout also make you wonder whether somebody in the group is a pixies fan.
Overall I simply cannot recommend that you get to know Iluvatar
, or any of the people involved in this. I mean, what kind of moron names themselves after Lord of the Rings anyway?