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(59:44, ‘Delusion Squared’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Double Vision 6:33 2. Necrogenesis 7:01 3. Faith Mission 6:39 4. Recipe for Disaster 7:55 5. Veridical Paradox 4:10 6. Revelation 7:26 7. Abduction 5:43 8. Naked Solipsism 6:00 9. Unexpected Messiah 8:07 LINEUP: Lorraine Young – vocals; guitars Steven Francis – guitars; keyboards; drums Emmanuel de Saint Meen – bass; keyboards
Prolusion. The French trio DELUSION SQUARED was formed in 2009, and made their debut with a self-titled CD in 2010. "II" is their second full length production, and was also released by the band itself, in February 2012.
Analysis. Any band that has a concept album with a science fiction theme story as its first one is bound to draw some positive attention to itself for this alone. When doing so within a musical framework that isn't too far away from a band like Porcupine Tree in style, and you add in a female vocalist to the mix, you do have quite a few ingredients on your side. And if your first effort is regarded as a good one too, a buzz will be created, which is what happened to this fine trio of musicians. Following up on such a hopeful start is the obvious next step for a band, a challenge that does present its fair share of pitfalls to avoid. And Delusion Squared is up to the task at hand. They get off to a good start immediately, as this sophomore production continues the story explored on their first release, something that will always trigger the fascination of those who enjoy concept albums, in particular those who enjoyed the first chapter of the story. But while the first chapter was one of escape, hope and promise, this time we're dealing with the end of the world. So this is not only the second part of a story, but the concluding one as well – which, I presume, is another good sales point for the band. But various frameworks and more or less interesting issues aside, it is the music that is the most important matter. And also here I find the band to follow up their initial creation in a good manner. Using cinematic sequences rich in mood and atmosphere to tie the individual compositions together, this fine French trio has produced another strong album: musically, still with a sound and expression that are comparable to the likes of Porcupine Tree, although I did encounter quite a few references to late 80's and early 90's Rush throughout as well. Most of the compositions appear to have some sort of a foundation in an acoustic guitar motif, and I'd guess that the exceptions have been composed on that instrument too. Be that as it may be, the songs are smoothly flowing affairs, featuring delicate arrangements that take care not to overly emphasize any of the parts that make up the whole. When metal tinged guitar riffs are employed they are of a dampened and careful nature; the acoustic guitar and bass are given space to come across clear and defined, and the at times rich array of keyboards and effects utilized are never allowed to dominate the proceedings: a well balanced mix, used to good effect. Usually with the vocals of Lorraine Young placed in the middle, with rhythm instruments gently providing pace and intensity based motifs beneath, key melodic motif providers mixed on level with the vocals for good harmonic effect, while synth effects and secondary motifs are placed slightly aloof. If that is a description that makes sense, someone with skills in the mix and production department might explain this in a much better manner. Still, it makes for a smooth arrangement with an emphasis on melody and harmony, where any contrasting features are explored in a careful, nuanced manner, resulting in an accessible overall sound, enticing, compelling and easy to enjoy. Structurally the compositions can be fairly advanced. Especially in the opening half of this CD the band creates, briefly explores and then tosses aside a multitude of themes. Many of them are strikingly compelling, and I'm sure, many others than me would have liked the band to explore further. Instead these opening features shift and develop quickly and surprisingly, an almost chaotic but still enjoyable romp through a number of strong and distinct themes, generally of a softer and compelling nature, with acoustic or dampened guitars and vocals sharing the main emphasis, backed by a good quality rhythm department and liberally flavored with gentle keyboard motifs and futuristic synth effects. The occasional metal-tinged riffs appear time and again, but never in a striking manner, and only rarely of a nature and character that will bring forth automatic associations to metal as a style. As the album approaches the final conclusion, the songs become less chaotic and sprawling too, becoming increasingly more uniform in structure, and limiting themselves to a limited set of themes with a less detailed arrangement. This adds a somber quality to the proceedings, an effect, I presume, has been well planned. And as befits a concept dealing with the end of the world, the concluding piece is anything but jubilant, opting for a cyclic run through an initial dampened theme that develops into a harder edged, darker one prior to concluding with a dark, ominous cinematic feature. The final part of the track is a surprising one, yet highly effective and that will be instantly recognized and appreciated by anyone.
Conclusion. With "II" Delusion Squared concludes the story cycle they started to explore on their debut album in a fine manner, the story and music both maintaining the high quality of their first CD. Existing fans should be satisfied quite nicely with this production, and to those not familiar with this band, I'd recommend lending an ear or two to it if you tend to like bands like Porcupine Tree or tend to find artists described as modern art rock to be to your liking.
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