Review Summary: Five years late.
Jesus. Has it really been half a decade since Illnath put out an album? Actually, it blows me away that it ever came out considering the band has fallen victim to the age-old tryst black metal has with line-up changes. Peter Falk (guitar) remains the sole original member, accompanied by Mona Beck (vocals), Kenneth Frandsen (bass) and Dennis Stockmarr (drums), all of which are brand new members. Was five years worth the wait? Well, kind of.
The music has taken a turn towards more traditional heavy metal stylings with hints of black metal sprinkled throughout it, instead of being a reoccurring theme, giving a nod to power metal during certain sections. "Third Act In The Theatre Of Madness" isn't really a step forward for the band, nor is it really a step back. It's more or less what you would come to expect from Illnath. The guitar is as self-indulgent as ever, Peter Falk displaying his melodic, classical shred on every track amidst the churning rhythm that gets you swinging your head side to side.
Unfortunately, "Third Act In The Theatre Of Madness" has a few less than noteworthy moments that should only be noted so you can remember why they suck. Attempting to base a concept album on your two previous albums, which were NOT concept albums, is just bad. Lyrics like "Lean back, enjoy the third act of Illnath!" and "After this nothing happened for a while/waiting, searching, looking, for a new style", both on the opener "Third Act", are just painful to hear. You will find terrible one-liners all over the record, its broken concept fueled by less than subtle lyrics. Mona Beck has a very clear growl, making parts of the album hard to get into because you can understand her asinine attempts at being dark. "It watches you in your happy place, pushing you around a bit", on "Snake Of Eden", is just inexcusable.
The songs don't really differ from one another, aside from a few grandiose solos, tremolo picked measures, and Mona Beck's spoken word parts amidst atmospheric keyboards here and there, causing the album to drag its forty-eight minute run time at just nine songs. The focus is heavily directed towards either galloping or down picked rhythm guitars, a killer groove and random melodic death metal breakdowns. Although it sounds good in context, the formula plays itself out by the fourth or fifth track and you get kind of worn out from the perpetual head banging. The major scale guitar solos, that are somehow almost necessary to Illnath's sound, are great and all, but there's only so many variations of an epic, classical guitar solo before you're beating a dead horse with your guitar.
I like Illnath, but "Third Act In The Theatre Of Madness" could have been much, much better after the five years it took the band to make it. I know that it's a completely different band now, but so much of the original sound remains in the distance due to Peter Falk's guitar work that you can't help but miss it, especially when the production is so damn good. Don't get me wrong, even though I find the lyrics atrocious and there are some dynamic issues as a whole, I enjoyed "the third act of Illnath", at least a little bit. More so for nostalgia than for the sake of it being an excellent album.
It was okay, but I'll sneak into the theatre of madness next time.