1. Excite The Light
2. No Compromise
3. High & Low
4. Medicated Society
5. Molly's Smile
6. Twisted Illusion
'Excite The Light: Part 1' is the first of a trilogy of albums from the constantly active musical powerhouse that is Twisted Illusion and may very well be their only album to feature very talented, but recently quit, lead guitarist Steve Revier. The album is the first part of a trilogy Matt Jones (the brains behind Twisted Illusion) has planned for the next 12 months, funded once again by a crowdfunding Pledge Music campaign that helped the band bring out last year's incredibly mature and well constructed 'Insight To The Mind Of A Thousand Faces' an excellent way to allow bands without access to the kind of cash a record company can supply to create recordings of the kind of quality that would compete with those of signed bands. It is from pledging to this campaign that I was given access to the album early (BEFORE it was offered to press contacts for review. Take Note Marillion!).
Personal investment and gripes about big name Prog bands' approach to pledge campaigns aside... Let's get to the music here "Excite The Light: Part 1" is a complete album in its own right, well rounded and filled with expertly executed musical twists and turns to keep even the most ADHD of music fan interested throughout.
The titular opener is exactly the kind of Tour-De-Force of musical power that Twisted Illusion excel at, complex, intricate, replete with the kind of vocal gymnastics that only Matt Jones and David Coverdale seem capable of (and Coverdale may not be able to manage some of Matt's more impressive vocal melodies here) coming complete with an excellent sing-along chorus this is the kind of huge song that I would expect to become a live staple.
'No Compromise' is a mellower number in its opening, with the band exploring the atmosphere of the lyrics building to an emotionally satisfying chorus before dropping back to allow the music to explore more atmospherics again, this song is almost an exercise in working with dynamics, but that description would be a disservice, making it sound a lot more simple and less of an emotional experience than it is.
'High & Low' feels very much like the tune to pick as a single were there to be one from this album. The twin guitars and bass harmonies on the intro actually showing how well Matt, Mark Wagstaff (Bassist) & Steve Revier work together to say nothing of the consistent excellence of Matt McDade's drumming (which locks in with Mark's excellent bass-work throughout the album).
'Medicated Society' calms the listener after the frenetic pace of 'High & Low', opening with an atmospheric solo over acoustic guitar and percussion (shakers) before the drums kick in for a verse underpinned by Mark Wagstaff's incredible bass-playing (is this double-bass?) In stark contrast after this balladic verse, we are treated to a disturbingly beautiful heavy breakdown before another muted, but darker toned than before, verse (did I mention the atmospheric guitar work in the verses?). On the more intense "breakdown" passages Matt Jones vocals are truly astonishing, like a harrowing cry for help, this man's vocal and emotional range are on full display on this record, as indeed are all of the band's impressive musical prowess.
Having reviewed the single on release, I nearly skipped 'Molly's Smile' when working on this review, thinking "I've heard that, I know how it sounds" but I'm glad I didn't, the mix for the album version feels different, somehow clearer, more open(?) and to my mind more tonally interesting, I think I like it better than the single mix, but at the same time it may be a contextual thing, the song was re-mixed to fit in with the sound of the album as a whole. The song is a gentle ballad which builds through an emotive solo to powerhouse chorus, a fitting paean to the titular Molly a child who was born early and sadly passed away two days before her due date inspiring her parents to work tirelessly repurposing the charity event Mearfest which they had already built raising money for various charities to help others going through similar nightmares.
The album closes with the epic 'Twisted Illusion', Matt Jones has said this is a spiritual sequel to 'Nobody's Child', dealing, as that song did, with his difficult childhood and relationship with his mother, some of Matt's darkest and most heartbreakingly emotive vocals are in this song. It's dark tone and deeply personal lyrics are a testament to Matt's determination to be his own man and govern his own destiny in a positive way despite his childhood struggles, musically this is also replete with the kind of incredible performances a well-rehearsed and tight band are capable of. Breakneck twists and turns in the music, going through the rollercoaster of varied emotions the lyrics conjure up.
As I said, this is only part one, I anticipate great things over the next 12 months and beyond from this band (and for them, this is a band clearly teetering on the edge of the recognition they deserve and have been building towards, after all, how many unsigned bands hit their pledge targets within 24 hours?).
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Review - Mike McLaughlin