Review by Darren Smith for MPM
If the people that compile the Oxford English dictionary ever need to update the meaning of the phrase “hard working”, then they could do no worse than reference Manchester rockers Twisted Illusion. These guys are the epitome of what the phrase means in terms of musical output and their productivity is second to none.
Since forming in 2014 and despite many line up changes, they have to date released no less than 20 albums and are now set to release four albums inside the next 18 months and already have plans to release a double album after all that.
The first of those albums to see the light of day is a re-recorded version of their debut opus ‘Temple of Artifice’ which comes out on May 28th, and is being released in celebration of its own 5th anniversary.
That will be followed by the ‘Excite the Light’ Trilogy, which are three albums distilling the essence and all aspects of the band’s incredible sound, from huge prog rock epics, to short three-minute radio friendly slices of pop rock. As it states in the press release, “TWISTED ILLUSION are here, and ready for widespread domination”, you have been forewarned!
The album press release states that “with influences ranging from Queen to Toto and Dio to Rush, Twisted Illusion have an unrestrained sound that totally draws you in. They serve up a hugely enthralling sound that is built around intriguing guitar parts, dynamic drums, thoughtful structures and powerful vocals”.
That really only just begins to cover the cover what the band offer in my opinion. Those influences and many more shine through on each and every track on ‘Temple Of Artifice’ but to say that almost diminishes from the individual quality of what is on offer here.
It feels wrong to compare this album to the title of the Disney classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’ but in some ways that is exactly what ‘Temple of Artifice’ is. There are some moments of divine beauty which are just amazingly stunning and they are then matched in equal part by some real musical beasts.
Not beasts in a bad way either, but in a monstrous, mammoth, gargantuan way. This is evident throughout the album as the track listing and the ways the tracks themselves are constructed switches between moments of sheer beauty to anger filled beasts with such fluidity, it is at times just totally mesmerizing.
From the opening notes of ‘Imitate Me Part One’ which come hurtling towards you at break neck speed to the subtle yet poignant closing bars of ‘Imitate Me Part Two’, the structure of each and every track and the track listing itself keeps you completely captivated.
When I reviewed ‘Imitate Me Part One’ a few weeks ago as a single, I wrote that I thought this could become the bands ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and what better way to kick off what is a startlingly brilliant album.
Much like the Queen classic, it is a musical delight that is built in three clear parts, with an opening onslaught of pure progressive metal that leads into an almost symphonic/operatic mid-section interlude that sees guitarist Saxon Davids take over the lead vocal duties from Matt Jones. The track then builds to give it a truly bombastic full on finish and for me makes this one of the albums standout tracks.
‘Freedom To Fail’ is all about the scintillating vocal interplay between vocalists Matt Jones and Saxon Davids. The latters vocal intro and some wonderfully beautiful Andy Gotteri keyboards fill the first 90 seconds of this beauty before some glorious dual vocals from them both and then Matt on his own. That vocal interplay is just sublime and plays out superbly around some divinely regal instrumental moments that show the band are not all about being loud and proud.
Now, after saying that, ‘Hatred Is A Virtue’ takes the dial all the way back up to 11. This track, which won the band Classic Rocks Track Of The Week is full of pummelling drums and bass, soaring vocals and screaming guitar.
The power in Matt Jones vocals as he blasts out lines like “Hatred is a virtue, unless you use it well, I’m a stranger to myself” and angst fuelled lines like “don’t worry about me, I have music, I have life” is just jaw-dropping and his vocal style is a real nod to those legendary power vocalists of their influences.
‘Apocolypse…LOL’, a tale of the end of the world is possibly the most melodic track on the album. Starting with a delicate guitar intro and then instrumental section, it is a tale of the world ending, but going unnoticed as people are just looking at their phone screens.
It has a thundering beat to it and some fascinatingly insightful lyrics of how we live our lives now like “Put down that phone and look into my eyes and try some human emotion”. This leads into ‘Online and Inline’, a big old fashioned slice of radio friendly rock.
This instantly reminded me of tracks by Rush and Yes, who almost left their own celestial bodies to record tracks fit for radio play and garner a wider audience from the prog rock fans who had
stood by their side for so long. Yes, it is a song about the misgivings of social media, something that Matt has a real love/hate relationship with but I am sure that those angst filled anti social media lyrics will resonate with each and everyone of us in some way, shape or form.
Is there such a thing as a prog metal power ballad, if so then ‘A Moment Of Lucidity’ may well fall into that category. Full of graceful keyboard and guitars at the start and then some heart-wrenching guitar solos within it almost makes the vocal parts an aside to the instrumental story telling that is being laid down in front of you.
Breath-taking it certainly is and the drumming by Phil Shacklady to build up the momentum in the song is just invigorating yet heavenly at the same time.
That then just leaves the albums closing track, ‘Imitate Me Part Two’. Although only five minutes long, this has real epic feel to it and in places has a wonderful Pink Floyd vibe to it. It is a distinctly beautiful way to finish the album, an album that feels like an Imitate Me sandwich, with those two tracks providing the solidity for the five layered filling in between to give you a whole host of glorious tastes and flavours to savour as you plough through it.
This really is a breath-taking, jaw-dropping album from start to finish, whether it be the musicianship, which I could wax lyrical about for ever and a day, the song-writing, which is just incredible, the vocal performances, which are stunning or the lyrics themselves, which are penned by a man who is quite capable of becoming one of the great lyricists of his generation.
Those lyrics, like “You can’t see what’s in front of you, blind to the world around, which life do you choose” are so worldly and so relevant in today’s climate, especially when you consider that this album originally saw the light of day in 2016.
Temple Of Artifice Track Listing
1 – Imitate Me: Part 1
2 – Freedom to Fail
3 – Hatred Is A Virtue
4 – Apocalypse … #lol
5 – Online and In Line
6 – A Moment of Lucidity
7 – Imitate Me: Part 2
Twisted Illusion are
Matt Jones: Guitar and Vocals
Saxon Davids: Guitar and Vocals
Phil Shacklady: Drums
Andy Gotteri: Keyboards
Chris Jones: Bass
Find Twisted Illusion online
Website – www.twistedillusion.co.uk
Facebook – www.facebook.com/OfficialTIband/
Instagram – www.instagram.com/twistedillusion_official/
Twitter – www.twitter.com/OfficialTIband/