Friday, April 22

Time Requiem - Optical Illusion

Time Requiem
Optical Illusion


If there is one thing that can make or break a neoclassical "shred" metal band, it is how they treat their songs - as musical ideas to be developed and formed into cohesive pieces, or simply as vehicles by which to show off their musicianship. I am glad to say that Time Requiem have chosen the former. There is a great deal of shredding in this album; however, it it is neither the central focus of the album nor a filler thrown in to stretch the songs. The solos, whether played on keyboard or guitar, are an integral part of the songwriting on "Optical Illusion," as each one subtly brings new melodic ideas to the table, lending the album a refreshing sense of fluidity, while maintaining a high level of technical brilliance.

The songwriting here is diverse, ranging from fairly standard power metal songs such as "Sphere of Fantasy" to more complex progressive numbers such as "Sin to Sin" and the superb title track. This diversity is reflected even within songs, many of which change dramatically from the beginning to the end. While this makes for an interesting listen, it can at times be detrimental to the flow of the album, and this is the only real weakness of the album. Taken on their own, the slower "Creator in Time" and the classic-rock-esque "Miracle Man" are good songs, but the way they are set up as the sixth and seventh songs slows down the album so much that by the time we reach "Sphere of Fantasy," the return to fast power metal seems almost out of place.

I am not usually one to focus on individual songs, but I have to include a special mention of the song "The Talisman," as it is my personal favorite on this album, and a shining example of how progressive power metal should be played. As the cliché goes, this song is worth the price of admission, and, to extend the cliché, that may be a bargain. Beginning with blindingly fast, aggressive riffing à la Symphony X, it boils over in a burst of shredding fury, which leads directly into the ominous verse. The chorus also deserves a mention here. Quite unusual in power metal (and even in progressive metal), it sounds very cold and distant; in fact, quite machinelike, and yet it is sung with inflection and emotion. "The Talisman," like many other songs on the album, ends quite differently than it began, slowly fading out in something of a lyrical mantra: "The face of universe has broken down, forever gone/It's time to show yourself, not fade away and die." After a journey through the dark, the listener is lulled into a sense of serenity before being thrust back into the confusion with the beginning of the title track.

Perhaps the most important aspect of "Optical Illusion" is the subtlety of the music. The material here is fairly dense and complex, and this is definitely the kind of album that rewards multiple listens. Of course, the music is very intricate, and so one will notice more and more detail with each listen. More importantly, the atmosphere becomes more and more apparent with repeated listens. "Optical Illusion," if we want to nitpick, is truly an aural illusion of sorts. While the seeming juxtaposition of "light" and "dark" parts seems strange at times, there is always a slight sinister edge to the "light" parts, lending the entire album (with the strange exception of "Miracle Man") an illusory feel - it is holistically a dark, confusing album, but gives little glimpses of clarity, whether they are real or not.

All in all, "Optical Illusion" is a difficult album, both in terms of complexity and in terms of finding the common thread that runs through it all. It is also a very rewarding album, one that can be enjoyed and appreciated for a long time without losing any of its appeal. Despite some inconsistencies, Time Requiem has managed to produce another memorable album, which I would recommend for anyone interested in the more technical side of melodic metal.

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Morpheus's Rating: 4.0/5

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