Two Reviews In One: Disillusion – The Liberation
A journey from “ugh” to “ooh.”
In his recent Witch Vomit review, Brandon talked about how an album should ideally be viewed independently of the band’s previous work. If he found that hard, I’ve found it damn near impossible in this case. After all, the reason we buy an album from a band we like is to hear the elements we liked previously. Not hearing anything too familiar should not have been a huge problem given how wildly different Disillusion‘s previous offerings were and how, regardless of that, I love them both. However, this long-awaited third album was touted as “the logical stylistic and lyrical successor” to their debut, Back to Times of Splendor, and with that, I couldn’t avoid initially judging The Liberation pretty harshly—if you’re telling me you want to live up to one of my absolute favourite albums ever, my “lonely island” record, the one I’ll make anyone listen to any chance I get, you better do a damn good job. I strongly felt that Disillusion didn’t.
In fact, part of the reason this review is so late is because of how put off I was at first. I’d already taken notes trashing the album as merely another thing that exists before something finally clicked. That’s why along with the actual review, I’m also presenting my first, knee-jerk draft (excluding the intro, because it’s the only thing I liked from the beginning). Who knows, maybe someone else is stuck hating the record and will give it another chance. Or maybe you wanna pick which one you agree with, choose-your-own-adventure style.
1st Draft: I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that intro somewhere on Gloria, and the part after the chorus is lifted from “Sleep of Restless Hours.” “Spiritual successor?” More like fan service. Guess that’s what you get from a fan-financed album—they’re just placating the masses! WAKE UP SHEEPLE! ARTISTIC INTEGRITY IS DEAD! GAAAAAAAHH!
2nd Draft: Wintertide immediately shows off trademark elements of the Disillusion sound; the guitar tone and the rich (yet not overbearing) synths leave no doubt which band you’re listening to. The slight vocal distortion recalls Gloria (but is thankfully used much less bluntly), while the instrumentation, the song’s overall structure, and of course its length do indeed hark back to the debut. I wouldn’t say it’s quite as good as anything on there, but it’s a great entry to the album that clearly proclaims, “we’re home.”
The Great Unknown
1st Draft: Of course the fast, thrashy verse has to slow down almost immediately—god forbid we have a fun song. What an incoherent mish-mash of parts. What a soft-ass chorus. What an even weaker middle part! Do they not know how to write different song structures anymore? THESE ARE WIMPY, OLD, TOOTHLESS ONE-TRICK PONIES! REEEEEEEEE!
2nd Draft: The many dynamic shifts that the band packs into just under six minutes did indeed take some getting used to, but there’s no denying that every part works. Again, there’s a plethora of subtle synths and other effects used to great effect, such as the slightly warped acoustic guitar in the middle part that helps create a chilly, forlorn atmosphere.
A Shimmer in the Darkest Sea
1st Draft: What is this Tool song doing on here? No wait, sounds more like “Aerials.” Oh well, I suppose this is somewhat interesting, what with the percussion and those vocal lines. But oh, here we go again with a quiet part that is COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY THE SONG COULD HAVE ENDED A MINUTE AGO NYAAAAAAAH!
2nd Draft: A quiet song, serving a similar function as “A Day by the Lake” on the debut, yet otherwise not comparable. In places, it offers an almost surprisingly upbeat mood after the largely aggressive and melancholic tones we’ve heard in the first songs. It’s also likely to be the first song to get stuck in your head right away. Part of the band’s new sound is exemplified pretty well here: superficially simpler than past efforts, yet enriched with so much detail that it bears many repeat listens.
1st Draft: Oh I see, can’t have a title track under 10 minutes, right? So let’s throw together another random hodgepodge of parts before switching to a quiet part that goes through the same motion twice and then repeat the chorus ad nauseam. PADDING MUCH!? NNNGH.
2nd Draft: The second of the longer songs again captures the feeling of the debut without sounding like a rehash. The intensity of the opening with its ridiculous number of layers conjures the kind of over-the-top bombast that fans are here for (though I do maintain that some parts feel stitched together). The extended middle part is serenely beautiful, and as the song ramps up again at the end, the repetitions of the chorus and the ultimate return to the opening riff create a satisfying sense of closure.
Time to Let Go
1st Draft: *mental fart sounds for five minutes and 47 seconds*
2nd Draft: The steady drum beat accompanying the catchy main theme of the song stays almost the same throughout the chorus and verses, only shifting some accents. It picks up a bit of complexity and eventually erupts into a barrage of drum rolls, but introduces these changes gradually so that it feels like a natural evolution. I think this is really great songwriting.
1st Draft: Wow, this has all the entertainment value of ambient music. Amazing how little you can make happen in twelve minutes. Oh wait, the songs ramps up at the halfway point… nah, just kidding, still nothing going on. And what’s with that swelling synth sound at the end? It doesn’t loop around to the intro. Is it a cliffhanger for the next “epic” album? NO THANKS I’M GOOD UGH.
2nd Draft: This one may indeed require quite some patience. It slowly builds toward a bit of escalation before completely dying down into a soundscape driven by ambient sounds, horns, and piano, doubtless the most experimental part on the record. After two more peaks, the band starts to fire up the finale, but surprisingly, this part plays out more like the high point of a post metal or doom song, drawing its emotional effect not from high speed and aggression, but rather from the vocal performance and the guitar lead. This paints a picture more of resignation than of triumph, but nonetheless works incredibly well.
What have we learned? Hopefully that The Liberation is an album that not only warrants, but rewards multiple listens. The second draft probably still doesn’t do it justice, but there’s little point in trying to describe every intricate detail the album has to offer—especially since I’m not sure I’ve really discovered them all yet. I also still haven’t made up my mind as to whether this tops the debut, but frankly, I don’t want to. Spiritual successor or not, it’s earned a right to actually be regarded on its own, and as such, it earns
4.5 out ov 5 Flaming Toilets
The Liberation is out now.