The question of when to write a band off is one that every fan must, regrettably, one day answer for themselves. It is extremely unlikely that every single one of the acts you once thought of as legendary or excellent will remain that way. Complicated matters even further is the idea of “the comeback”; what if I write off a band and then they return to form and I miss out on it? It’s happened before; hell, Metallica made a great album just a few years and the output before that wasn’t…great, to say the least. When it comes down to it, the decision of when to cross off an artist is often made for us: time, quality, scandal, just us growing up, all of these conspire to make forgetfulness a reality for us. Whether we intend to or not, names drop off of rotations, playlists get shorter, and artists that walked with us daily become distant strangers, to be revisited once in a while for nostalgia.
But let me tell you about Disillusion as parable for staying open and attentive as much as we can, given artists we once loved a chance. You see, Disillusion’s Back To Time of Splendor, released by the band in 2004, was one of the records that made me fall in love with progressive metal. 2005 was the year of Dream Theater and Symphony X for me and the music couldn’t be more exciting, my love for both bands overshadowing almost anything. Almost. Disillusion spoke to me with a loud voice during those years, offering a more theatrical (no pun intended) and yet also darker tone to the conversation. But many years had passed since then; a few weaker releases (though they were still good) and, finally, many years of silence made me forget Disillusion. I listened to them here and then, and especially since I joined the blog and other members reminded me of the album, but I had little hope I’d ever hear music from them again, let alone good music.
But then a single was announced, “Alea”, and fast on its heels The Liberation, a complete album from Disillusioned. My immediate reaction was worry: how could this album possibly live up to the classic which still echoed in the recesses of my head? However, I curbed my fear and tentatively got excited, spinning “Alea” a few times to see where they might be headed. But nothing could prepare me for how good The Liberation really is. It wouldn’t be fair to ask the question everyone wants to ask (“is this as good though?”) and so we won’t. It’s unnecessary anyway. All that matters is that the album is good, as its own thing, as another statement from the band on what they think progressive metal should be. And let me tell you, I love much of their thoughts.
Like previous works, The Liberation draws a lot of inspiration from what has come to be called “nordic prog”, offering a more ethereal, atmospheric, and haunting vibe. This can be clearly heard on “Wintertide” for example, a more somber track revolving around an excellent drum groove and beautiful, all encompassing synths. These more expansive and melancholy sounds work beautifully with the lead vocals, just as powerful on previous releases. They’re also allowed a fair deal more freedom on this release, breaking the duality of aggressive delivery and almost spoken-word that existed on earlier releases. Here, the vocals have a much greater range, working also on more melodic, deeper clean vocals that work very well with the band’s sound. It’s not that this style didn’t exist before; rather, here it feels more organic and self-secure, giving the vocals a lot of fidelity in delivery.
In general, The Liberation doesn’t feel like a comeback; it doesn’t feel like a record with anything to prove. Instead, it just sounds like Disillusion doing what Disillusion do best: creating great, effective, and moving progressive metal. Take the title track for example, clocking in at just under twelve minutes. It opens with this massive line, calling back to Back Of Times of Splendor in a way that no fan can mistake. But this tone quickly melds into the main, aggressive riff and harsh vocals that follow it, shaking off the need to stay connected to the old sounds and styles. The opening line returns many times across the track but it doesn’t feel like fan-service; there’s a whole track built around it, composed to be its own beast rather than live in the shadow of what came before.
And that’s The Liberation‘s story and the main reason it’s name and, indeed, the album itself, works so well. This is Disillusion declaring their freedom from the past, from their baggage, from expectations. This is them returning to the music they obviously love so much, pouring their unique talents into making an album that’s just damn good. Yes, every mind will immediately compare it to previous works; is it good enough? Are they back? However, I urge you to look further and just listen. Listen to the chorus on the title track and feel goosebumps on your skin. Listen to the main great moments on this album. Listen to the earnest and varied vocals.
And see that this album is fantastic, in the here and now. Let us be liberated from the past.
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The Liberation releases on the 6th of September. You can head on over to the band’s Bandcamp above to pre-order it.