Review by Darlene McGarrity, images provided by Illusions of Grandeur
Illusions of Grandeur hail from the city of Lancaster, PA, which historically is known for modest Amish culture, sprawling farms and quiet back roads. Their debut album, Songs of the Siren, released on Toil Records and is a lot of wonderful things, none of them modest. This concept album with layers of melodies and harmonies is powerful in its masculine femininity as it melds like sandy waves that beat a raging volcano into submission.
Long ago, there was a siren named Alysia who failed to watch Persephone like she was supposed to. Hades snatched up the unguarded Persephone and made her his wife. Now Alysia, stripped of her wings, has to journey to find Persephone so the both of them can return home. This Greek tale of tragedy intermingles with a fictionalized version of the band, and it has a lot of potential to be exhaustive and overdone. Illusions of Grandeur, however, pull it off with the tight leads and rhythmic riffs along with sultry, transfixing vocals that nail it in such a gruesome beauty that it is difficult to stop listening.
The album opens with an acoustic piece (cue storm and water sounds) coupled with a captivating prequel of the tumultuous tale that will follow via song. The mandolin is enchanting as it takes the listener to another dimension musically only to be brought back to fictional reality in the latter part of the track.
‘Three Two Three’ is an immediate tune that gives pause. The vocalist’s tone is riveting as she chants and then breaks into lyrics on this dark ballad. The bass line is prominent on this one as well, which heightens the darkness of the song and the embedded tale. Tragedy is gripping and the band plays that up well.
There is some soliloquy that distracts from the experience a bit. We already know that this tale is through the point-of-view of Alysia, so the speaking parts in first person break the flow of what could potentially be a close to flawless record. Not to mention, the story that goes with the album is available on Spotify and on the CD so telling the listener what is going on dilutes the concept of a concept album. Nonetheless, this is a brilliant debut album that should be enjoyed from start to finish without interruption to get the full effect. Pick it up today!