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Shape Of Despair : Illusion's Play

It's been a while since 'Angels of Distress' saw the light of day, but that album is still a classic among lovers of funeral and the more romantic kind of doom. Obviously, expectations were high for the follow up, and that is what I have here: 'Illusion's Play'.

Let me be straightforward and let you all off the hook: Does this album meet those expectations? Well, it certainly meets mine. The first song immediately sets the atmosphere, and one is throroughly reminded of the works that came before. This is definately Shape of Despair you're hearing. 'Sleep Mirrored' is a tense instrumental, and a tad mysterious. The style of the songs is most reminiscent of that on 'Angels of Distress', but the songs all seem to have a bit more energy and I think this is mostly because of the drumming, which is certainly more varied than on previous albums. This is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, like I said, it makes the music more dynamic. On the other hand, though, the hypnotic effect that so appealed to me in 'Shades of...' is much less prevalent in this album.

On the whole, the songs are slow to mid-tempo, with an emphasis on the melodies played on keyboard or lead guitar by Jarno Salomaa. This is accompanied by riffing guitars, female (background) vocals, lots of deep growls, and plodding drums. The sound in general is as it is on 'Angels of Distress', very polished and this time perhaps even still better in quality.

One thing I am very fond of is the dual male/female clean vocals on 'Still-Motion'. The whole beginning of that song is very entrancing and a fine example of how to write engrossing modern doom metal. However, this brings me to a point of criticism. How I wish that there were more of these moments on the album! It is this kind of atmosphere that truly set this album apart from and above the previous album, but it is so rare. In all the 62 minutes, there are perhaps too many that do not stand out or can even be seen as 'filler'. Some ambient keyboard pieces are overstretched and compared to the moment I mentioned, many song parts seem uneventful or pale.

Don't get me wrong, however. All in all, this is an extremely good album and a worthy follow-up of 'Angels of Distress'. I only feel that perhaps the band haven't fully realised the potential they clearly show on that personal highlight I mentioned. One can only thoroughly enjoy what is here now, though, and 'Illusion's Play' is indeed thoroughly enjoyable. Let's hope that the future will see Shape of Despair opening up even more.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Sleep Mirrored
2. Still-Motion
3. Entwined in Misery
4. Curse Life
5. Fragile Emptiness
6. Illusion's Play

Duration : Approx. 62 minutes.

Visit the Shape Of Despair bandpage.

Reviewed on ??-??-???? by Oscar Strik
Aesthetic Death
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