Illumishade – ECLYPTIC: Wake of Shadows
Illumishade’s debut album “ECLYPTIC: Wake of Shadows” that has seen the light of day on May 15th, was easily one of my most anticipated releases in the past few months. Since all three singles sounded radically different from each other, it left much room for curiosity regarding which direction the full-length was going to take. Then the answer came and it was simple: all of them. This might very well be the most genre-bending album I’ve heard in 2020, ranging from progressive djent all the way to symphonic ballads and radio friendly tunes.
For those unaware, this is the side project of Eluveitie’s current vocalist Fabienne Erni and guitarist Jonas Wolf. To be honest, the last thing I would have expected from folk metal musicians would be a prog/djent oriented pretty little monster but that’s exactly what they went for and it didn’t only turn out great but it actually gave a fresh and original direction to the style. This is a concept album and although the plot isn’t very clear to me, the feel of it easily comes through in the composition and structure of the album. It feels divided into 4 chapters that follow an evolutionary direction musically as well as lyrically, each one spotlighting a different approach to the expressive delivery of the sound but all of them carrying common elements that make them fit together so well and make the album feel like complete when experienced front to back. To maintain the fluidity and cohesiveness, the bridge between these building blocks is made through brief, instrumental interludes that gradually twist the atmosphere from one song to the next.
The intro, ‘Passage Through the Clouds’, opens up a majestic fantasy-world with use of ethereal choirs, gentle keyboard sounds and light, airy lead guitar tones, easily introducing the listener to the imagery and vibe that dominates throughout the full stream. And as soon as the first actual song, ‘The Calling Winds’, kicks off, the key component that makes their sound so satisfying is on full display. Contrasts of down tuned groovy chugging riffs placed along-side clear vocals and infectious melody create a sense of innocence and harmony which is also maintained through ‘Tales of Time’. Only on this one, the tempo and energy picks up and the band really starts displaying their affinity for creative rhythm patterns, unexpected dynamics and technically challenging moments. This one also has Eluveitie front-man Chrigel Glanzmann as a guest, lending his voice to enhance the dynamic of the song.
The first part of the album sounds incredibly bright, childish and fun, but as ‘The Farewell Arcades’ leads into the second chapter, the attitude gradually starts to mature. ‘Crystal Silence’ is easily the catchiest, hook-based song on the record, almost resembling a pop song but it starts to carry a slightly ominous undertone and the lyrics also start distorting the clear, optimistic energy of the first part. Then the djent clears out entirely and the energy is tuned down with a couple of power-ballads that resemble a generic, movie-soundtrack vibe but enhance it with creative twists and instrumental intricacies.
This is where Fabienne’s vocal delivery really gets to shine, letting emotion run free and interact with the guitar lead melodies. Surprisingly, it’s also where I feel the drum patterns get the most diversity going as they sustain a gradual build-up of emotion through the song. Then another interlude, ‘Into the Maelstrom’, takes us to a turning point in the story with a surreal usage of ominous electronic elements.
The third chapter has two contrasting yet naturally complementing songs placed side by side. ‘Muse of Unknown Forces’ puts up an expression of anger, drama, and a destructive persona, being probably the most dramatic song on the record and also the most epic, both vocally and instrumentally. It builds towards a peak of tension followed by an explosive release of energy. As a counter-balance, ‘Golden Lands’ is the third ballad on the record and it does somewhat recall the musical elements in the second chapter but this time around, it evokes a sense of nostalgia, longing and loss.
For the final part, all the djent, synth, samples and electronic effects are put in full display and driven towards impact and ferocity as the vibe loses humanity and turns apocalyptic. ‘Beyond the Obsidian Veil’ is the connecting track that gets this energy going and it is by far the heaviest, most tense and bombastic moment on the record with the down-tuned djent-styled riffage going full throttle on the low frequencies. It then flows into the closing track ‘World’s End’ which makes use of the same vibe and musical elements to display the whole fantastic imagery which was constructed throughout the record falling back on itself dissolving into nothing, only to then recall lyrics in the beginning of the album as a closing sequence.
There’s something about a well-used reprise that always gets to me and that final moment is certainly what sealed the deal in terms of just making everything come together. Despite the many musical directions the band took for the songs, they all complement each other seamlessly and turn into a chain of events that you can easily get immersed into as if you were watching a movie. It’s not just the music itself that makes it so extraordinary but also the incredible sound effects, thunderous production sound and the theatrics that vividly express the constant ebb and flow of the emotional journey with sublime accuracy. It’s one of those albums that puts as a top priority getting the message across, which makes it really easy to understand what it’s all about. And it oozes quality with every step of the way. At this point, “ECLYPTIC: Wake of Shadows” might just be my strongest contender for album of the year.
- Passage Through the Clouds (02:06)
- The Calling Winds (02:10)
- Tales of Time (03:13)
- The Farewell Arcades (02:28)
- Crystal Silence (03:10)
- What Have I Become (05:20)
- Rise (04:47)
- Into The Maelstrom (02:18)
- Muse of Unknown Forces (04:21)
- Golden Lands (02:55)
- Beyond the Obsidian Veil (02:20)
- World’s End (05:15)
- Glowing Tides (00:42)