Abaddon magazine

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Review: Illusory – Crimson Wreath

Label: Rockshots Records

Date: May 21st, 2021

Almost twenty years ago in the capital of Greece, Athens, The Ivory Tower was born. No one thought that one simple mistake would cost a band a name. The Ivory Tower was not protected as the band name and as another Ivory Tower appeared on the metal scene, Germans have won the battle and Greeks had to change the band name. That is how Illusory was born.

Under the name The Ivory Tower, the band released two demos (“Society” and “The Two Covers”), one EP (“A Few Days Make Eternity”) and one full length (“The Ivory Tower”). “The Ivory Tower” was re-recorded and released in 2013 (The Leaders Records Japan). “Polysyllabic” (hard) followed in 2016, and now, in 2021 Illusory will release “Crimson Wreath” for Italian label Rockshots Records.

If you judge the book by its covers, it is obvious what you can expect from “Crimson Wreath”. On February 12th, 2021, Illusory announced the new album releasing the video for the song “Besetting Sins”. As the band stated:

“This is the opening track of the album and also our first single off the “Crimson Wreath” album. A very heavy song with fast guitar gallops, an Eastern flavor, a melodic chorus and a progressive twin guitar melody in the middle of the song. It speaks about religion, the Seven Deadly Sins and especially about an ancient Greek emotion called Acedia…”

Should I say more or just write a chorus?

“We rise; we fall; we’re dying
The seeds of lies we’re carrying
The book of all mankind has opened, curtain’s falling
We choose the wrong to follow
Forgive ourselves tomorrow
No abreaction, it’s too late, besetting sins.”

Dimitris Theodorou with his sharp vocals perfectly fits in the theme of the songs.

The next one, I would say intermezzo, “Acedia” (for all those who are not familiar, acedia might be translated as laziness or apathy), narrative text with acoustic guitar and irresistible Greek accent, lead us to a song “Crimson Wreath” whose introduction reminds me a bit of Firewind’s “Ode to Leonidas”. The song is inspired by wars with strong chorus that lifts the atmosphere:

“Force alarm
Ammo blasting, Tommy Guns
Fear sadly spans
They’ll do us harm
They shall damn our lifeless carns.”

“Immortal No” unleashes pure energy, pounding drums, Dee’s vocals shine and again the band covers war theme.

“All Shall Fade” and beautiful piano and guitar parts is another interlude that carries the album heaviness:

“Life is changing, can you see it too?
Don’t stay in the past
Seasons changing and so can you
Life flies away so fast
Standing in unity, no one’s left alone
Nothing lasts forever, all shall fade
There’s too much now to say
Color and religion, all the same
Learning life another day
Facing our destiny, is this our home?”

“All Blood Red” is another song supported by the video and aimed to racism:

“We share the same blood. All people share the same blood, regardless of skin color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, financial comfort, personal beliefs. We sing about it, we speak about it, we act about it.”

“The Voice Inside Me” delivers narration of Stiver Graunne, which melts into “S.T. Forsaken”. Don’t let a slow introduction trick you! Somewhere around 1:15, the song transforms from potential ballad to furious, galloping, pure heavy metal sound. Guitar solo is stunning here, pure catharsis while listening to it. The whole composition goes in the direction of Iron Maiden’s I would say more “A Matter Of Life And Death” than “Dance of the Death”.

Following the mythology we get to the next song “Ashes To Dust”. Again, Greg Bakos and George Papantonis proved to be true virtuosos. The song is a roller coaster of different tempos, spiced with narrative parts in native, Greek language, delivered by Grigoris Valtinos.

“A Poem I Couldn’t Rhyme” is something we have all been through, a re-examination, a conversation with ourselves… And “Past Forever Last” is another, I would say, melancholic song, overwhelmed with despair supported by piano and weeping guitar sections.

I thought I heard waves at first, but as soon as the thunder was involved it was clear there was a shower. The choir and we go to the Gamma Ray direction in “The Isle of Shadows”, especially the vocal interpretation in next part:

“Can’t see the rainbow, can’t stop the tears
We’re left alone reminiscing those years
Voices of north winds, yet heard, but don’t speak
The isle of shadows; so strange, so mystique.”

A lullaby intro in “Agony’s Last” sung by Mary Tirou leads to, as I see it, a love song, where all the sadness, all the pain, is intensified by guitar solo sections.

“Every night I stare back
At my dreams in the dark
I can’t go on like this
It is you that I miss
Still pretending I’m strong
Though I wrote you this song.”

As if there was not enough sadness, here comes another one, led by the beautiful soprano part “Fortress Of Sadness”. Melancholy is taken over by galloping guitars in order to dissimulate the sadness, pain and terror of diseases of the present time: pedophilia. Helen is just one of the girls, the victim of child molester, whose living terror is best described in verses:

“This nightmare’s scene, a living hell
There’s no exit, there’s no escape
No one ever rings the bell
There’s an evil shape
This fortress of sadness, a place where the innocent fade.”

Helen escapes, but the ultimate question is: do the victims ever forget the past? Can they recover? If the lyrics of this song don’t make you think, something is definitely wrong with you. The very poetic nature of the song can be compared to the best works of Mr. Kim Bendix Petersen. 

Helen and the song you have to think about masterfully close the album, which I can say for sure is my favorite and candidate for the album of the year, even though we haven’t even gotten close to half of it yet.

If I were to single out one detail on the album, it would certainly be choruses, but twin guitars should by no means be neglected, as well as rhythm section, vocals, a well written poetic lyrics, variety of themes (anti-war, pedophilia, mythology, racism…)  and great balance between slow and fast paced songs intersected by narrative parts. Adding choirs, classical and acoustic guitars and piano sections can only show that it is a matter of well-coordinated experienced musicians who put quality first. 

In the end, no matter how Helen’s story touched me, I will quote the verses that best describe this album and the whole idea behind it:

“No more blood to be spilled for all religions
No more tears for the children in this world
No more frauds from our blunt politicians
No more lies, no more deaths and no more war.”