Style: Symphonic Gothic Metal
Release Date: 28 Jun 2019
Sites: Facebook | Metal Archives | Official Website
I googled the best metal bands in Belgium and, while Elusion weren't on the first list that I found, Ancient Rites topped it and that's the former band of Domingo Smets, who founded Elusion in 2015 after well over a decade and three albums with them. Maybe once Elusion have recorded more, they might be on there too. This is their debut album, after an EP, Desert of Enticement, in 2016 and it's pretty decent.
Metal Archives tells me that they play symphonic gothic metal, which seems fair but there's a lot less gothic than there is symphonic. Evy Verbruggen has the clean operatic style that you might expect with a decent range and everything else is built around that, including the darker growls of bass player Kristof Degreef, which often seem to be intended as much to introduce or punctuate Verbruggen as to contrast her. He's far from a co-lead, showing up here and there only as needed.
Another aspect that shouldn't surprise is that Elusion are comfortable with longer length, conjuring up complex songs with layers to explore. Only four of the ten tracks here run shorter than five minutes and one of those is an instrumental outro. However, only one exceeds six minutes, Anamnesis, which lasts over eight and wraps up the album in suitably epic style.
I enjoyed the opener, Choices and Chances, but it was the next two that sold me on the album.
The Strive is the obvious single, with its bouncy riffs, a catchy lead vocal and a heavy midsection with Degreef's most prominent vocal contribution. It starts out cinematic, with swordfights and ominous humming, but ends with a round. It's adventurous and ambitious but still accessible. The band clearly like it too because there's also a remix version here that translates it to electronic darkwave.
The Tales That Trees Tell is less accessible but just as enjoyable. Degreef is a tease on this one, serving to set up Verbruggen nicely. The guitars of Smets and someone I believe is called Stijn, stalk behind them, as if to let us know to pay attention to the background. Especially towards the end, we hear hints of flutes dancing just out of sight, as if they're hiding behind the trees of the title. Both these songs feel visual and that's not uncommon on this album.
If the rest of the album isn't as good, that's just by comparison. I enjoyed each of the tracks in different ways, not least because they kept on adding new sounds. There are Egyptian drums on Reconciliation of Opposites, there's a harp on In Eternity and there's brass on Crystal Doubts.
Lovelorn has a waltzing midsection to get our feet moving and interesting clean gothic vocals that came out of nowhere but felt very much at home. We get a clean duet too and that harp to emphasise the visuals. Maybe this is the gothic aspect; I'm seeing grand balls in grand ballrooms, even if I'm not seeing vampires in the middle of the dance. In Eternity brings the harp to the fore and adds a spoken word section over strings. Again, it's gothic in the sense that it conjures up period visuals rather than that it sounds like a song a goth might like.
Reconciliation of Opposites is appropriately titled because it gets heavier again but leaves Verbruggen soaring sweetly above everything else. I'm much more fond of heavier Elusion than lighter, I like the rhythm section, which chugs along well, and I like it when Verbruggen really stretches her vocal chords, as she does most obviously on My War Within.
I liked this on a first listen but the middle of the album didn't seem to hold up to the bookends: the great two tracks at the beginning and the epic Anamnesis at the end. A second listen elevated them because there's depth in them to explore, but the standouts remain the same.