Ilium - Vespertilion 4.5/5

Reviewed: 2-29-08





Tracklist:

1. Solar amplexus
2. Undergods
3. Desinence: Beowulf and the serpent
4. Driling through a proton
5. Parasite in cavalry
6. Futility
7. Black abyss
8. Beowulf: The peroration
9. Vespertilion
10. Romulus and Remus


This excellent 3rd release from Australia’s Ilium is a superb blend of thoughtful, complex, yet thoroughly melodic power metal, all punctuated by excellent instrumental skill, very solid vocals, and exquisite lyrics.

While Ilium plays pure (if not purely European) “power metal” through and through, that will appeal to fans of the best work of Lanfear, Angra, Black Majesty, Onward, etc., and like many of those bands it is far from the limited cliche, combining a focus on really prominent guitar leads, with some complexity that eschews the typical verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo etc. template. There are some tremendously powerful choruses on the CD, that really knock you out of your chair, but they are used sparingly just a couple of times, especially in the more epic tracks. At times the song structures make the CD similar to the best work from the last 2 Megadeth CDs ('United abominations' and 'The system has failed'), coupled with a bit more of a power metal feel, and using a very strong, clear vocalist over the excellent music. It’s also relatively diverse within its identity, and the title track carves out some more sharply straightforward metal that is a great change of pace.

“Lord” Tim (of Dungeon and the eponymous Lord) returns for his 2nd CD (and presumably last) in his quasi-guest role, but it’s still mighty welcome, as his powerful pipes dish out their strong, pure and resonant power metal voice, conveying the mighty melodies in the big choruses that are present throughout the CD. If anything, his voice is a bit low in this particular mix. As mentioned above, the songs are really driven by the profligate lead guitar work, of Jason Hodges and Adam Smith (who handles the bass as well on this CD), while Tim Yatras on drums lays out the sharp, precise aggression that is the hallmark of this sub-sub-genre. There are keyboards courtesy of Kaspar Dahlqvist (Dionysus, Stormwind), but for the most part they are reserved for infrequent, if effective, use.

Some of the songs, like the opener “Solar amplexus”, are more complex and take a while to build, while others like “Undergods” are a little bit more succinct in their songwriting. What is obvious on most of the songs is a devastating emphasis on strong leads, with hook after catchy hook. Songs like “Romulus and Remus” and the 2 "Beowulf" songs feature some of the aforementioned swelling choruses in the heart of some of the longer and more intricate tracks.

The band continues the sesquipedalian song titles and excellent lyrics highlighted on their prior works (the band was already carving up Beowulf’s Grendel in lyrics prior to the recent movie highlighted the old English heroic tale), covering myth, history, literature, and science in a fairly good approximation of a liberal arts education.

Overall, if you greatly enjoy that sweet spot of power, metal, intricacy and songwriting that you hear from bands like Angra, Lanfear and Black Majesty, 'Vespertilion' is an excellent example that comes highly recommended.



CRAIG




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