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Twisted Illusion - 'Insight To The Mind Of A Million Faces' Album Review


1. Reflections

2. Worlds Apart

3. The Problem With Eternity

4. I Wish I Was There

5. Textbook Tyranny

6. Social Paradox

7. Three Strangers

8. Nobody's Child

9. Different Light

10. Insight To The Mind Of A Million Faces

11. Discovery

Prog is coming back, or so I'm told in the many Prog forums I frequent, Steven Wilson has an album that hit the mainstream charts on release & BBC Breakfast even interviewed him (the closest they'd got previously to talking about Prog music was Phil Collins' appearance on the show).

I'm well known among friends as a bit of a Prog head, you know the type, one of those people steeped in the Prog classics with a huge collection of vinyl in gatefold sleeves, narrow-minded opinions & deep seated feelings about Progressive music, it's past & it's future (which should reside, of course, in the past)...

...Wait a minute, that's not right, (I hope) I'm not the closed minded Prog-head that I see a lot of online interacting with each other about who would feature in their ideal lineup of Emmerson, Lake & Palmer, if I were this would be a lot more difficult of an album to review.

Twisted Illusion is effectively the band which performs the music conceived by a single artist Matt Jones, the frontman, guitarist & brains behind the band is touted as a lesser known Steven Wilson (see there was a good reason to mention BBC Breakfast after all!) or Devin Townsend, which is by no means doing either of the more known gentlemen any disservice.

On first listen I was immediately struck by how well put together this music is, the songs seem to have space for everything that you hear. What I found impressive was the use of the vocals to perform in roles that I would normally pass off to the lead guitarist being myself a somewhat less skilled singer (but enough of that). Detailed and intricate arrangements abound with overarching structures in which the vocals contribute just as much to the melody and harmony of the songs as the guitars with Matt's Dioesque vocals soaring, where I fear others would struggle to reach. The musicianship on display from the band's revolving door of players throughout is top notch, many times I sat listening to bass-lines thinking they were of an ilk with the work of Geddy Lee and every guitar solo is a carefully considered statement performed with the flair of Eddie Van Halen but the melodic sensibility of David Gilmour.

The song lyrics often display a wry humour which resonated with me quite a bit, a lot of Prog is all too serious and cerebral (which is nice at times of course). This band, it seems, like to have fun & don't appear to take themselves too seriously (this is borne out by the videos I watched of their previous singles). I found myself quite quickly drawn into the narrative, which never seemed overly weighty even with the scathing observations of the state of society littered through the lyrics in the lead single 'Textbook Tyranny' for which I believe the video was released earlier this year.

This is effectively a double album, which means there's a lot of music here, if you're wanting to take it all in the one sitting you need to set aside not far short of 2 hours, for which you will be rewarded, it's pace is very well calculated, just at the point where I felt like a listening break may be necessary from the full on nature of the music there was a moment of repose and a pastoral calm descended for just the right length of time before building up to an emotive solo. For such a lengthy collection it doesn't really ever feel too repetitive, although there were a couple of occasions where I felt like I could hear their influences a little too much, moments almost too reminiscent of Radiohead and Rush, this doesn't detract from the enjoyment I had listening to the album though.

Indeed there's a great deal to endear this album to the open minded Prog fan and indeed in the two singles the aforementioned 'Textbook Tyranny' & it's follow up 'The Problem With Eternity', which are each about 6 minutes long (therefore among the shortest tracks on the album) there is potential for a broader appeal, they have an easy almost disarming accessibility which was immediately obvious from the first listen. 'The Problem With Eternity' employing more of the aforementioned humour in its first few lines "Dancing like a fairy, a fairy with a beard" musically perhaps less dense than, say for example the album's opener 'Reflections' but no less of a showcase of the band's musical prowess for this.

It's by no means the perfect Prog Rock album (after all it's not King Crimson's 'Red'!) but it is very very good & has renewed my enthusiasm for modern Prog, (no mean feat as this is a subject that has given me much internal conflict in the past).

If an act claims to be Prog the question I ask myself is, 'Is it the shape of Prog to come, or the logical development of Prog gone by?' In the case of Twisted Illusion they are very much striving to make the next step here, the album is both approachable enough to draw you in on a first listen and deep enough to bring you back for more both in the music and the lyrics (also this is a Prog band with a sense of humour a rare treat indeed) ones to watch definitely.

Review - Mike McLaughlin

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