Review || Illumishade - "Eclyptic: Wake Of Shadows"

Illumishade is a newly formed band, originating from Switzerland. It is, in fact, the side project of Eluveitie singer, Fabienne Erni, and guitarist, Jonas Wolf. Although I quite like Eluveitie, I haven't followed them very consistently over the years. I have however stated my unbridled admiration for Fabienne's lungs of steel numerous times in the past.The band, completed by Yannick Urbanczik on bass, Marc Friedrich on drums and Mirjam Schnedl taking over synth and orchestrations, early on attempted to establish intimacy with the audience by introducing the members as tribe characters with distinct traits. 

My first touch with the band was through Fabienne and Jonas' social media in late 2019. Among a successful crowdfunding campaign, teasers, a behind-the-scenes documentation and an open call for fans to send submissions for the intro, in early 2020 the band revealed the first single and got me hooked. The two that followed only made me more eager for the release of their debut album, "Eclyptic". Expanding over 40', it contains 13 songs separated in four axis with interludes.

"Eclyptic" kicks off with a dreamy start, and Erni welcoming us to the band's universe. It's not until "Tales Of Time", the third track, that the heaviness is gradually introduced. Here, we also see Eluveitie frontman Chrigel Glanzmann as a special guest. The song keeps a lovely balance between the melodic guitar work, the consistent double bass drum and the choirs surrounding the vocals. On the following track, "The Farewell Arcades", the dreamy essence is still very much present over the rhythm guitars. This two-and-a-half-minute interlude acts as the introduction to the latest single "Crystal Silence". Considerably groovier than the previous songs, it's a catchy tune with a lovely chorus, softly touching on a pop vocal melody (and synth in the background) which renders it memorable.

On the contrary, "What Have I Become" starts in a soft way, reminding me of musical theater (or a modern Disney movie score) in a way. The beautiful piano and strings enhance the natural tone of the song, until halfway through when it slowly builds a more electric character. I absolutely loved this transition and at first it felt weird that the band chose to put this song before the second single/power-ballad "Rise" but as the tracklisting flows, it feels like the logical step toward and makes perfect sense; the dynamic of both songs in the middle of the album helps build momentum while keeping the listener's interest. What really caught my attention with "Rise" is the guitar solo, which I feel draws inspiration from 80's hard rock ballads, something I would never oppose to. "Into The Maelstorm" is yet another interlude, introducing us to the third part of "Eclyptic". More somber now, we see Illumishade do a sudden 180 as "Muse Of Unknown Forces" blasts in an almost ominous way. The listener is met once more with the groove and yet another big chorus which I can easily see myself butchering singing in my livingroom. Finally, I can't help but notice the crystal clear production which brings forth all the details of the composition.

The tenth song, "Golden Lands", is also hands down one of my very favorites in the album. It kicks off in the musical spirit of "What Have I Become", and the way Erni projects her voice really makes me wonder if she's a classically trained singer. My only objection here is the length of the song, which passes in a blink of the eye, while the listener is absorbed in the sound. "Beyond The Obsidian Veil" is the heaviest track so far, oddly enough instrumental, juxtaposing the heavy af riffage with the atmospheric keyboards. I wouldn't mind some harsh vocals here, as I feel they would add something extra to the song. The lead single, "World's End", follows. This is what sold me to the band and I guess you could say it was love at first sight. I was actually surprised it was second to last in the tracklisting. It is just as melodic as it should be, structurally solid and even hints at a heavier disposition which I would personally welcome in future material. Every performance is on par, with strong vocals, crushing melodies and an assaulting rhythm section. Last but not least, "Glowing Tides" is the ethereal outro which binds all the previous compositions and seals "Eclyptic".

Overall, "Eclyptic" is a very notable debut album. It is well constructed, undoubtedly a result deriving from the members' status as professional and experienced musicians, and sporting a cinematic feel. I appreciate how Illumishade found balance in utilizing all their creative assets. Having Fabienne Erni's usual singing style in mind, it was definitely very refreshing to hear her create a new comfort zone and adopt diverse singing techniques to best complement the songs. However, I do believe there are two points that are yet to grow on me and which I should address. Firstly, the instrumental parts. At the first spin, I was expecting the interludes to act as smooth transitions between opposite or very different musical directions -which they do, to a certain extent. I would have preferred if those tracks were instead introduced as one, integral song, even if it remained instrumental. This, consequently, leads me to the second point. The songwriting doesn't expand to the point where the interludes would be deemed as necessary. There is an established connection between the ballads and the groovier tracks, which also seem to not stray from a particular, and rather uniformal, structural form. The songs still retain their character but they also kind of feel lacking further experimentation in order to fit the spirit of the album. Maybe this was intentional so as to draw a line and avoid comparisons with the inherent heaviness of Eluveitie. I would have personally liked to see the band push a few more boundaries but, as I previously mentioned, this doesn't mean the album isn't a very good first effort. I am really looking forward to what Illumishade will offer in the future.
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