Album: Illusions – EP
Have you ever had a lucid dream? An instance wherein things seemed normal, but slowly began to drift into the fantastic and unbelievable? At first, your brain goes along with it—providing a story for the sensations generated by random synapses throughout its depths. Nothing seems out of place, even when your surrounding begin to change into the unfamiliar.
Your mind desperately tries to make sense of errant signals. The lines between reality and fantasy become blurred. Your surrounding either succumb to you—you take control, realize the setting you’re in and flourish—or you succumb to your surroundings. Your subconscious takes over and a real-enough depiction of the world you know turns to Hell.
Maybe you haven’t had one—and that’s find—but that sort of perverted, off-kilter reality is not unlike the dysphoria induced by the devastatingly heavy, progressively-dusted metalcore act, Illusions, and their 2018 EP. A series of skin-splitting grooves woven between skull-busting breakdowns and manic, unhinged aggression, Illusions’ self titled work is nothing short of incredible and immersive, stopping at nothing to keep the listener immersed for its dizzying entirety.
Combining the off-the-wall, unpredictable patterning of street-savvy acts like Outlaw or Barrier with the brazen, boldly metalcore penchant for immense, towering anthems a la Architects, Illusions are a unique band to say the least. Percussionist Andrew Ellis holds down the core of this Northumberland quartet with fleet feet and fast hands, dominating on “Blood Runs Cold” and “Withered” without missing so much as a fraction of a beat. Ellis combines punchy, heavy-handed aggression with agility, adding subtle fills (and plenty not-so-subtle ones) into the mix, peppering every track on Illusions’ self-titled release with odd patterns for bassist Joe Taylor and guitarist Zac Yates to work around—which they manage expertly. Yates is enormously talented, adding elements of djenty, crunchy groove and “what the Hell was that?!” Inducing fretwork into a relatively solid, sturdy backbone of core-infused metal. Meanwhile, Taylor serves as his heftier half, adding weight and gloom to the moments of “Withered” that weigh down on the listener like a yoke. “Dreamwalker” is another such track that sees the dynamic between Ellis, Taylor and Yates shape up brilliantly, adding ethereality a little bit at a time, keeping the listener strung along through the ethereal moments, only to get brought back down to earth with monstrous, misanthropic heaviness, Illusions carry on this way—surprising the listener at every turn—with a metalcore release that manages to feel new and different, which, in 2018, should be enough on its own merit to warrant a closer look from any prospective heavy music enthusiasts.
But it isn’t just the instrumentation—because frontman James McShane has plenty to say atop the chaos that defines Illusions’ self-titled release. McShane is magnificent, malevolent and everything in between throughout the tracks that define Illusions—using excellent story-telling structure to the lyrics of “W.D.G.I.W.” And “Blood Runs Cold,” while still maintaining a punchy, prominent candor that drives each syllable into the listener’s head like a wrought-iron nail. Then, there’s his range—which stays stuck somewhat firmly in a shrill, upper-mid range yell for much of the release, but dips into grisly lows and hearty roars when need be, aptly driving home the heaviest parts that the EP has to offer. McShane does great justice to the dynamism of the musicianship by adding consistency, not only in his vocal stylings, but in the intensity and emotion driving his delivery, keeping the listener every bit as glued to the speakers as the blitzkrieg of brutalizing musicianship does.
Stifle the collective groan that creeps to the top of the heavy music community’s throat whenever “metalcore” gets mentioned—because Illusions are a band that will make you regret ever even thinking a disparaging thought in the first place. The group’s self-titled EP is a well-crafted trance of tremendous aggression, catching the listener hook-line-and-sinker from the beginning to the bone chilling end. Heavy, groovy, hectic and one hell of a ride, Illusions’ release is a barn-burner—a very real barn-burner.
For Fans Of: Barrier, Architects, Like Moths to Flames, Yuth Forever
By: Connor Welsh