Review Summary: A somewhat versatile album that is proof of the musicians' ever-growing potential to continue contributing great music to the small mass of people with good taste in sound. The only way it could have been better is if it were professionally recorded.
The Art of Being Your Illusion is the second full-length album by the experimental rock band Mattoid Droids based in Vero Beach, Florida. I use the term, “experimental”, very loosely, as it is difficult to label the group, especially this record, with any single genre. Lead songwriter and multi-instrumentalist David “Gonzo” Gonzales experiments with sounds ranging from alternative to bossa and hard rock to jazz. Through this record, Gonzo demonstrates his ability to comfortably shift through different sounds and moods.
“In Clear View”, the album’s opening track serves its purpose perfectly. In just over two minutes, Gonzo gives us a small taste of what to expect from the album with this subtle, heavy tune. Together, with the following track, “Skeptic Antic”, Gonzo shows off his 4th Degree Burn roots with well-written, heavy tracks that embrace the influence of guitarists such as Matthew Bellamy and Mike Einziger.
“Deny”, the album’s third track is akin more to Gonzo’s work with 4th Degree Burn than the former tracks in the fact it was written while he was still a part of the band. A softer track in comparison to “Skeptic Antic”, “Deny’ is a bitter tale of love leading rejection. Some may find the song more powerful lyrically than musically, and while it may be the case, no one can doubt the quality of the songwriting.
One of two instrumental tracks on the album, “Jupiter’s Downfall” is a relaxed electronic tune that echoes influence from close friend and former drummer of 4th Degree Burn, Austin O’Rourke (Horologue, Ghastly). The only track on the album with no guitar, “Jupiter’s Downfall” is a strong example of Gonzo’s ability outside of his hard rock roots.
“Toxic Love”, a track similar to Deny in a lot of ways (more than likely because it was written around the same time) takes us back for another foray into hard rock through another emotional tale of love and deception. Amongst its fellow hard-rock hits from the time, “Toxic Love” stands out as being a more genuine and original take on the genre, showing Gonzo’s confidence with the sound.
“Reach” is an original Mattoid Droids song that fits in well with the songs from Gonzo’s days with 4th Degree Burn. However, more layered and featuring more varied instrumentation, it’s a strong track that shows off Gonzo’s growth as a musician. This is proved even more so with “Ageless Pyramids”, the second instrumental track. A relaxed bossa tune; Gonzo once again removes himself from his comfort zone and the product is something that is truly stunning.
If the album had singles, “Found You (It Won’t Be Long)” would be one of them. A jazzy, blues song with a brilliant guitar solo, the song is held tightly together by surprising elements of pop music you wouldn’t expect to hear here. The song holds up as not just one of the best songs on the album, but the best in Mattoid Droid’s current discography.
“E.T.M.B.R” is the third song taken from Gonzo’s 4th Degree Burn days. A heavy and energetic track that displays the quality of the 4DB songs on the album and allows for some breathing room between the jazz songs on the album. “The Leech” is another take on the jazz genre, much unlike “Found You” despite existing within the same realm of sound, the song, while not as powerful as its predecessor, holds its own as a more fast-paced and energetic form of jazz.
“Up” is another of the more powerful, yet very relaxed tunes on this record. Standing next to “Found You” in terms of quality, it’s wildly different from anything else on the record in musical terms. A softer, more relaxed alternative track, it seems with “Up”, instead of completely stepping out of his comfort zone, Gonzo simply and brilliantly broadened it. The final track, “Desert Dessert” further displays this new found confidence before quickly retreating back into heavier roots, which is far from being a bad thing, as it does so very cohesively.
Overall, The Art of Being Your Illusion is a remarkable album that displays a wide, somewhat versatile range of sound that stands as undeniable proof of the musicians’ ever-growing potential to continue contributing great music not only to their local audiences, but eventually, to a world where good music is getting harder and harder to come by as time passes. The only possible way this could have been a better record is if it were professionally recorded.