In perusing Spoken’s press release, it states that the band’s latest and greatest release, Illusion, “is an exercise in aggression and calculated fragility. Laced with testosterone, the album throws down with the elite of metal and hardcore in calculated moments of heaviness. But what makes this record distinctive is not its speedy riffage or its pounding beats, but its emotional candor.”
I can agree with this statement to an extent. This album is very good. I listened to it over and over. It does have the calculated moments of heaviness. It also oozes with emotional candor. These are the things that make each song hold their own. They are strong and solid songs. Each song brings a different feeling to the table, and that makes the music fascinating. What is not distinctive about this album is exactly stated above: its speedy riffage and pounding beats, because these exist in every song in a very calculated and precise way. They are pretty much the same across all 12 tracks.
After listening to this album copiously, I began trying to figure out how each song differed from each other, and I came to the painful conclusion that they actually are very similar to one another. Spoken found an amazing formula and they used it to make an album. It’s a great formula, which produces a great song, and each song is featured on this album. The problem with using that one song recipe, is that you find yourself listening to songs that begin to blend together. I had to work hard to find differences that I could savor and appreciate across this album.
I hate that the above paragraph sounds so tremendously negative, because I actually do like this album. I like it a lot. I listen to it a LOT. It has been the backdrop to my morning and afternoon commute and it lives now in my iPod rotation. I feel strongly on how talented Spoken is as a band. These songs are definitely a nice collection of some really catchy songs that you want to hear. They could all live very comfortably across radio airwaves. Many of the songs, unfortunately, have a déjà vu effect in which you say to yourself, “Hey! I’ve heard this before. I love this song.” They all have that magical effect, regardless if you’ve heard them in the past or not. So, yes it’s good, but it is also somewhat common feeling.
Let’s get down to the track listing and some of the finer nuances of this album:
This song opens the album with a brutal entrance of guitars and power (perhaps that aforementioned testosterone?), and then it moves into melodic melodies that alternate between harsher vocals on the verses and smoother choruses. It’s a great song, and a great welcome to the Illusions album.
Beneath the Surface
This song is similar to “Stand Alone,” in terms of the introduction, but with a harsher driving beat, and a slower syncopated and purposeful melodic line.
Illusions ponies up a few favorites, in terms of composition and general listen-ability, and this song definitely meets my criteria for being a great song, because of the melodic line of the chorus. The chorus worms into your brain and you find yourself humming it as you move throughout your day. The chorus is the mainstay of this song, and it has a lasting effect. This song is a personal favorite because it presents a dichotomy between heavy and lyrical melodies
Through It All
It has a nice different intro, strumming electric guitar that sets up a framework that moves between harsher verses and lyrical chorus. It has an anthemic feel that is catchy and makes you wanna move, and is definitely a good choice as the first single to be released from this record, and knowing that it was inspired by the Joplin tornado, it definitely gives the song some perspective and reverence, which can be appreciated through its chorus, “Through it all, we’ve been thrown in the fire. We’ve been lost in the flame – But we will rise from the ashes again.”
More Than You Know
This song starts off differently an remains structurally different from the previous tracks throughout composition-wise. It deviates from the standard formula this band has devised, but only enough to not be too similar to the other songs and has a nice solo that leads into an explosive progression into the bridge, and powers through into the end. This song is also one of those that begins that déjà vu feeling mentioned above, but that may be because of the sentiments behind it, as you hear in the words, “I was wrong and finally I realize we’re looking through different eyes. I’d give the world just to hold you tonight and finally I realize. When looking into your eyes you are much more – so much more than you know.” Deep, I know!
Remember the Day
If I had to choose a favorite for this album, it would be this song. It has an uplifting intro, and if I didn’t know any better, this song is written and played in 6/8, which gives it a lilting groove. It’s an uncommon time signature, so whenever I hear songs written that way, I take notice. They are uncommon, but when executed well, are definitely epic. In the same fashion, this song has a hint of orchestral grandness, which is also greatly appreciated, because it is unique and I am just a sucker for including orchestral aspects into heavy music.
Shadow Over Me
This song has a different, grungier guitar introduction, and then moves into a different direction from their tried and true formula. In contrast with some of the other songs on this album, this song’s verse is contains the smoother singing while the chorus features the heavier screams and vocals. They inverted their formula and produced a darker and more aggressive version of their standard.
The Accuser has a drudgy and dark entrance. This song is BIGGER than the song before it, until the chorus returns, glossing it over with the “Spoken” style. It moves between the glossed Spoken signature delivery mixed with a sinister feeling, giving it a contrast of styles which generate interest and suspense.
If I had to pick a song that would get some great radio airplay, it would be this one. It definitely has radio appeal, and a beat reminiscent of the style of the band, Hollywood Undead.
I wish I could say that I loved every song on this album, but this song just kind of fell away by the wayside. There is nothing bad about the song itself. It’s just not memorable and feels like an afterthought to make sure that this album could be considered an album, and not a long EP. There is nothing wrong with it. It’s there. It’s just one that, for some reason or another, you tend to forget, and allow it to be an enjoyable soundtrack to your life at a moment in which there is not much going on.
Calm the Storm
Whereas the song “Tonight” is forgettable, this song is memorable. It stands out by being an outwardly obvious ballad. It has a simple introduction with a lyrical and wistful progression into an emotive great rock ballad. It moves through the standard verse/chorus transitions that are typical of this genre, but when it moves into the bridge, it evokes an 80s metal feeling as it moves over and through the key change. It is one of the highlights of this album.
The illusion about the title track “Illusion” is that it’s not the same song as the song that kicked this album off, “Stand Alone.” The song ROCKS! It has a blistering intro, and it moves between the heavy and smooth, and sounds like a continuation of “Stand Alone.” Perhaps that is what the intention was: to make matching end-caps to the album, and have the first and last songs so similar that you don’t realize they are not the same song. The intros into the songs are practically the same. I played the first ten seconds of each song, and down to the millisecond, the songs were almost indistinguishable from each other, except in volume. “Illusion’s” introduction is much more muted. At the ten second mark, both songs have a scream on the exact same note that lasts for another ten seconds. So, we have 20 seconds of startlingly similar introductions. After those first 20 seconds, there is a verse, and on both songs, it carries the same momentum. That happens for ten seconds on both songs. At the 30 second mark, there is a ten second piece of long screaming. The “Stand Alone” song says, “I stand alone in the fire,” twice, whereas “Illusion” says, “what happened to you,” twice. They kind of veer off into their own directions after that, but they are still in the same style, and remain quite similar. The chorus on “Illusion” is much more grandiose than on “Stand Alone.” Other than that, the songs are practically interchangeable.
That’s a lot of words, and I try to be honest because honesty is always the best policy. The album is good. I recommend you go give it a listen yourselves. It’s great music, and definitely something to keep your eyes and ears open for in 2013. Pre-Order Illusion from Spoken directly or on iTunes and in stores nationwide on February 12, 2013.
~Alice Roques, Co-Founder/Managing Editor
Photo Credit: Bryan Fittin (photographs provided by PR)
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