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Twisted Illusion - 'Temple Of Artifice' Album Review


1. Imitate Me: Part 1

2. Freedom To Fail

6. A Moment Of Lucidity

7. Imitate Me: Part 2

Many Prog bands these days are releasing remastered, remixed by Steven Wilson Deluxe versions of their early albums, Twisted Illusion has often been unfairly bundled in under the "Prog" banner so it may come as no surprise that (despite it only being a few years old) they have come up with their own approach to re-visiting their early work.

'Temple Of Artifice' was the debut "official album" by Twisted Illusion, a suite of songs ripe with well-observed, often witty lyrics, complex and rewarding musical intricacies, and an overarching theme that continues to resonate in society today. To many fans of the band, it is a masterpiece, truth be told, it is, in fact very good.

But Matt Jones does not like to rest on his laurels, having completed the recording of a trilogy of yet to be officially released albums (watch this space) he decided the time was right to re-record the band's debut with the current band (and a couple of guests who also performed on the original album in the shape of bassist/vocalist Mark Wagstaff, and keyboardist Jess Lawton) Matt Jones and Saxon Davids on guitars and vocals, Andy Gotteri on Keyboards and Phil Shacklady on drums, Chris Jones the band's now permanent bassist doesn't play on this album as he hadn't joined when the band recorded it, but he is present in the videos and on a number of the band's recently recorded "Midnight Affairs" releases, issued via Bandcamp through the recent pandemic.

Anyway, back to 'Temple Of Artifice', the album has been re-recorded and the band sounds energized and hyped to be playing what must now be the definitive recordings of these songs, there are some incredible performances on this album, everyone is playing/singing out of this world.

The album opens with the epic feeling 'Imitate Me: Part 1' which introduces the threads of the underlying concepts of the pitfalls and powers of social media (a modern-day tool that Matt both loves and hates in equal measure). The fury that builds through the opening track then stops abruptly to draw us into the delicate opening of 'Freedom To Fail' a song exemplifying the struggle between the two sides of the social media coin (or are they more like the blades of a sword of Damocles?). Built around gently interweaving guitar arpeggios and piano lines dancing beneath the vocal interplay between Mark and Matt, the song builds to some explosive choruses and intense instrumental sections with exchanging and interweaving lead work on guitars, bass and keyboards.

Next, after a brief acapella harmony, we are hit with the Hard-Rock workout/riff-fest that brings us into 'Hatred Is A Virtue', a vitriolic lyric decrying the modern consumerist society the protagonist is forced to occupy, this song is full of classic Twisted Illusion lines, the title itself although a nonsense phrase is often bellowed back at the stage by audiences live.

Next, we come to the gentle sprightly intro to 'Apocalypse... #LOL' which has one of the greatest lyric videos I've seen in a long time, but you can find out that for yourself, there is a certain bounce and almost gleeful abandon to this song about the end of the world as seen through a Mobile Phone screen. It gives us a glimpse of the lighter side of the apocalypse, acknowledging the destructive potential of living our lives online.

Bringing us to the next tune, 'Online And In line' growing from a solo guitar intro to the full power of the band rising to a crescendo before dropping to allow space for the lyrics which bemoan online connections and plead for us to indulge more in real-life connections, another song filled with amazing instrumental interludes and one of the fastest basslines I've heard in the second part of the middle section.

The balladic intro to "A Moment Of Lucidity" follows this a perfect musical antidote to the intensity of the chorus sections of the song, some spectacular instrumental workouts threaded throughout alternating with one of Matt's most emotive vocals. Matt's vocals are (and have always been) one of the highlights of the band's music, although like Geddy Lee from Rush his voice has not always been to everyone's tastes the mastery of his vocal craft always sees him building intricate vocal harmonies and hitting notes many singers would struggle to find, with apparent ease, I find that his solo vocals are the most relatable, poignant moments in the songs where the extra layers peel away leaving Matt's voice exposed, still powerful, still connected to the song's core meaning. 'Imitate Me: Part 2' forms a grand finale at times bombastic showing the band's serious musical muscle and at times more gentle and understated there's no doubt at the end of the song that you've been on a journey, nothing has changed but at the same time so much has happened, the album gently closes with the same lyrics that started it off.

Twisted Illusion's work has always had devoted fans and on occasion, a handful of naysayers but the recent developments with Matt working from home during lockdown to produce an album a month for the last eight months have shown the band are hungry and keen to be taken seriously as the musical force of nature they are and the successful cottage industry they have created. Several singles have already been released ahead of the album's official release, videos can be found on the band's YouTube channel.

Review - Mike McLaughlin


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