Review Summary: “An empty shell within a maze straying back and forth”The Liberation
was supposed to be another one of those
For context and this-very-week relevance, Disillusion’s first long player in thirteen years is supposed to be for Disillusion fans what many Tool fans have so recently found in Fear Inoculum
(surprisingly): The Comeback Of The Decade, the stupidly high standards of hype being manifested into a product of true greatness, or let’s just be fu
cking real here-- actual proof that a favorite band still “has it” after more than a decade of absence. Yeah, Germany’s Disillusion was supposed to be another Tool success story, and we were promised by both band-leader Andy Schmidt and the band’s label, Prophecy Recordings, themselves, that this would be a true comeback, going as far as to describe The Liberation
as the “logical stylistic and lyrical successor to Back To Times Of Splendor
" in the album’s press release.
So what happened? When I listen to this I get the same feeling from when I first heard Dark Tranquillity’s We Are The Void
nine years ago. That album followed 2007’s colossal Fiction
, which many and myself rank among that Swedish band’s best-- or even the best of all of melodic death metal, actually. Void
features much of the same formula as Fiction
and 2005’s Character
before it, except it is just plain worse, both being completely derivative and uninspired throughout its length. Void
came three years after Fiction
, yet here in 2019, The Liberation
has come thirteen years after 2006’s experimental sidestep in Gloria
and a baffling, whopping sixteen years after progressive-melodic-death-metal masterpiece Back To Times Of Splendor
, its true predecessor and inspiration, the primary source for Disillusion’s committed fanbase.
compared to Fiction
, The Liberation
contains much of the same progressive melo-death “gist” of Splendor
, yet none of the charisma, mind-possessing melodies, and proper song placement that should be coupled with vital, pivotal
album pacing. To be frank, it’s simply a bad album trying desperately hard to be an amazing one, to be another Splendor
in look, feel, and execution. But it’s just not. Like, not at all. Second pre-release song “Wintertide” tells it all: The album’s best hook of “And in the night-time longing and wintertide memories [...}” is suffocated and buried inside this twelve-minute epic, the first of three to be found on the album, that stops and stutters at the oddest moments and runs at a confusingly low tempo. Honestly, this song would be so much better if shi
t were kicked up a notch, the bridge curved a bit and, well, just placed better, and the run time, due to a tempo increase, were brought down to nine or ten minutes.
I make a big deal about “Wintertide” in particular because it’s sadly The Liberation
’s best song, easily. Next follows first pre-release song “The Great Unknown”, a track that was meant to excite the fan base and announce that Disillusion had finally returned back when it was debuted in mid-July, but as a song it’s fairly weak and the chorus is just forgettable. I had hoped this shorter cut (in comparison to the epics) would work better in context of the album, but it really doesn’t at all. The musicianship is serviceable, but only just that. It then leads to “A Shimmer In The Darkness”, which gets props for having a unique Middle-Eastern vibe in its guitar lines, if only for variation’s sake. This track’s rolling melody reminds me of parts of 2006’s Gloria
, and while an interesting song in its own right, there is no reason to have it drag on for seven minutes. Lyrically, this finds our album’s character drowning in a sea of woe and “catastrophe”, always, which is supposed to be the proper lead in for The Liberation
’s title song and second epic.
Like “Wintertide”, “The Liberation” is a twelve-minute cut that contains what many Disillusion epics up until now have always contained-- a growled, heady verse, then a more mellow, catchy chorus, and then a multi-part bridge that circles back on itself and returns to the chorus section. This one in particular, however, is as close as Disillusion have ever come to ripping themselves off, and by that I mean, as The Liberation
’s title track, I can’t shake the feeling that this is just a diet version of Splendor
’s amazing title track. It’s got all those elements, yet weaker, and it’s placed in a way that directly recalls the latter in an eerily similar fashion, bordering on plagiarism. In context of the album, this ripping off of styles in the title track may have worked better if “A Shimmer In The Darkness” had set it up more fittingly, or if the forgettable “Time To Let Go” didn’t follow it, but whatever the case is, as the album’s centerpiece, it’s a complete failure.
Conceptually and lyrically, it wouldn’t have worked, but 2016’s one-off single “Alea” would have been a better way to close The Liberation
because as it stands, final epic “The Mountain” is absolute garbage. It’s another twelve-minute suite that prods on at a slow-ish pace for four minutes and then cuts into a quiet bit that features this odd, wailing horn part with Schmidt crooning in the background for another four minutes. Then, the final four minutes of the song decide to get serious; it’s like the band suddenly remembers that itself and the audience are still there and that they need to close this mess off. A pseudo-epic guitar solo then fires away, but by this point in the track, it’s too late. “The Mountain” is a lost cause, much like The Liberation
So, yeah, a lost cause is hardly another Tool success story, and while fans may like The Liberation
, somehow, or at the very least may like a few songs from it, this stands as a horrible sequel to one of my favorite albums of all time. It contains many of the same progressive and melodic elements from Splendor
, but the charisma and full-throttle momentum of that masterpiece just aren’t here to be found in any way whatsoever. Maybe sixteen years is too long of a time to recall prior inspirations, or maybe Disillusion’s notorious line up changes had something to do with it; but whatever the case, this one goes down as the disappointment of the year. Actually, given the time span involved, The Liberation
is The Disappointment Of The Decade and provides ample evidence that some follow-ups should never be attempted. A total failure, well-intended or otherwise, but a total failure all the same.