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(79:53, Generation Prog Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Overture 3:55 2. The Beginning 7:05 3. The Run 9:46 4. The Memory Returns 6:05 5. The Party 2:16 6. Closing Doors 6:06 7. New Age 8:08 8. Continuum 9:51 9. Sarah's Dream 3:58 10. 13th Floor 6:25 11. Nightmare 16:18 LINEUP: Gerald Peter – keyboards, orchestrations Rupert Troxler – guitars Ulrike Mollner – violins Stephan Forst – bass Aaron Thier – drums Elga Shafran – vocals Taris Brown – vocals Cara Cole – vocals
Prolusion. The Austrian band CIRCLE OF ILLUSION was officially formed in 2011, as a vehicle for the creative and conceptual ideas of composer and keyboardist Gerald Peter, a band that could bring life to his compositions and further develop them in execution as well. They were signed to the fledgling German label Generation Prog Records in 2013 for the release of their debut album "Jeremias: Foreshadow of Forgotten Realms".
Analysis. Occasionally, I do wonder just why a band has chosen their band name. In the case of Circle Of Illusion I don't, as it is so much more fun speculating in this case. This is a band that, after all, is dealing with illusions on at least two different levels. They play with our perceptions of music and the illusions we have created in terms of stylistic expressions and genres, but they also play with our experiences as listeners to the material they bring to the table, weaving effective and clever illusions that set us as listeners up for one surprise after the other. This is a band that's fairly clever, I assume, or a band that has had a luck of luck on their side when recording this material in the manner they have opted for. Personally I suspect this is planned, in detail too, and that there's no element of luck involved. But a great deal of illusions, that's for sure. If I were to go through this production in minute detail, I'd need to listen through the album a multitude of additional times to get them all. There's a lot going on from the moment this CD kicks off until the last dying notes ebb out, and a lot of it will challenge the listeners and their perceptions and understanding of music. I can basically see two different manners in which to describe the contents, and a third possible future scenario for where this band might end up if they have the luck and dedication needed. I'll start with the first option however, which is to place this production under the progressive metal umbrella – wich kind of comes natural. This is a band that utilizes plenty of guitar and keyboards driven arrangements after all, and in a fair degree of variety too. Slow, massive riffs supplemented with rich layers of keyboards for a classic and impact heavy progressive metal sound is one, and various degrees of riff supported instrumental sequences with guitars or keyboards soloing another, with room for quirky guitar soloing, elegant melody based ones as well as some neo classical inspired runs. The keyboard arrangements tend to be clearly inspired by symphonic classical music more often than not, and while we're treated to both powerful organ textures and delicate piano motifs, the mainstay throughout are orchestral arrangements, layers of keyboards assembled to sound like a classical symphonic orchestra. It is at this point that we come to the illusions. Powerful operatic vocals that transport the music into symphonic metal territories is a detail worth mentioning here. As are sequences with a more distinct soundtrack origin and execution, subtle and not so subtle theatrical movements with or without vocals on top, on occasion with spoken words or a spoken theatrical voice performance. What really sets this production apart is that from any of the aforementioned arrangements, styles and expressions, Circle Of Illusion will gleefully transport us into smooth, gently funk.oriented landscapes with driving bass and string details, complete with soulful female vocals, in a manner that has disco written all over it. Often by way of a slight alteration of the arrangements only, or at least it appears that the alteration utilized is one of a fairly minor nature. Transporting us back into the more powerful metal-oriented territories again or a soundtrack inspired passage again with a logical development where it appears that just a minor alteration has occurred to move us from one to the other of these strictly contrasting types of music that in our minds doesn't have any strong relations. Illusions, in short. In the second half of the album the disco references aren't as plentiful I might add, and when they appear they are closer to lounge music than purebred disco, but the second half of this production is more about alternating between soundtrack inspired music and various degrees of metal, as well as an additional little detail that might or might not yield clues as to where this band might be heading with their material in the future, and what the ultimate goal of composer Gerald Peter perhaps might be. "Jeremias..." is a production, as stated, that can be described in two different ways: a progressive metal album, but also as a rock opera. There's a conceptual story, complete with individual roles played out, soundtrack inspired passages and theatrical details. The mere title of the album also indicates that this album isn't a complete story, but rather the beginning. Certain details that unfold as this disc plays out give me fairly strong associations to something just a tad more ambitious than a rock opera however. Instrumental passages that most likely can be utilized as backdrops for stage activities, some of the spoken voice details on a track like 13th Floor, the dramatic and theatrical nature of the album as a whole as well as all the style variations mentioned as well as the ones I'll let others discover for themselves; all of these details give me strong associations towards a musical. And a thought that the ultimate goal for Circle Of Illusion and composer Gerald Peter is to build and develop a musical, perhaps even with ambitions to perform the story in full, on stage, as a musical sometime in the future. Idle speculations obviously, but if this should happen I wouldn't be at all surprised.
Conclusion. Circle Of Illusion's debut album is an innovative, genre defying creation that will challenge your perceptions about music, about different styles of music, and how different or not different kinds of music actually are – or not. The main foundation is progressive metal, with soundtrack, score music and disco thrown in as some of many additional flavors, placed within a conceptual context of the rock opera variety. A very well made album it is, as long as you have the open-minded curiosity needed to have your musical tastes challenged and a wide enough taste in music to take it all in. Highly recommended as far as I'm concerned, as long as you think you can fit that very specific description.
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