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Thirteen years have passed since Disillusion's rather fantastic 'Gloria' was released. Wow, time flies! I adored said album, and its predecessor, and the band themselves for taking such a boldly progressive leap between albums, whereby 2004’s 'Back to Times of Splendor' and 2006’s 'Gloria' each had their own uniquely progressive personalities. A brave move in one sense. So, just where are Disillusion at now, over a decade on? Revised personnel, but retrogressive music, whereby the songs on 'The Liberation' hark back, predominantly, to ‘Back...’ era Disillusion. To be honest, I adored 'Gloria' and its refreshing departure from what had come before, with all of its genuinely innovative delights and wonderful eccentricity, and I'd have been happy if they'd continued along this progressive path... or taken another left-turn and ventured into entirely new sonic territory once again. But, in essence, 'The Liberation' is, most certainly, back to times of splendour! They've returned more to their pre-'Gloria' sound, but with passages of music and various quirks that expand their sonic horizons to incorporate further original, self-styled progressive tangents. As such, this is a regressive and progressive album.

So, what of those personnel changes? Well, it seems frontman Andy Schmidt on vocals/guitar is the last original member still present. Longstanding sticksman Jens Maluschka left last year, and his replacement, Josh Saldanha, who recorded drums for the album, has now also left. It also seems to be the case that, after a little further online digging (in the absence of detailed, up-to-date press blurb, as this promo arrived with very little info), new-ish recruits are guitarist Sebastian Hupfer and bassist Ben Haugg, although the latter has since assumed the role of third guitarist and Felix Tilemann is now the band’s bassist. Or is he? That 2018 update I uncovered seems to already be out of date, as there’s more recent mention, this summer, of Frank Schumacher being the band’s touring bassist. So, basically, fuck knows who’s currently in the band, what role they currently have, and who recorded what for the album.

Conflicting, overlapping and ambiguous personnel updates, what of the new music? In a word - brilliant! As I said earlier, there’s a prominent regressive/progressive duality running through the songs. And it's not just regressive within the context of Disillusion’s own sonic diachrony, as there are also some moments that are reminiscent of other prog acts; notably, a scattering of passages that bring classic 'Still Life' era Opeth to mind, amongst others (mainly in some of the mellower passages in songs, in how they contrast with the heavied-up material). Predominantly, though, there’s a bias towards their own idioms - namely, as I already noted, ‘Back to Times of Splendor’, but with some mild ‘Gloria’-esque flavours thrown into the compositional pot, and spiced up with newer sounds/dynamics.

Generally, the music on ‘The Liberation’ has strong storytelling vibes, made more emphatic by the fact there's plenty of drama in the, at times, richly layered music, together with a more minimalist, filmic feel in places. Think the title track from ‘Back to Times of Splendor’ but even more epic. This is narrative based prog metal at its finest, where the music both reflects and drives along poetic lyrical matter on what proves to be a riveting journey from beginning to end. So many shifts in mood. And so many seamless transitions between the heavy and the mellow. And the varying vocal styles keep the storytelling element ever interesting, from growls to a wider array of cleans. ‘The Liberation’ is an album of emphatic contrasts, and all masterfully executed by Schmidt and whoever else might’ve been involved in this.

Seemingly celebrating the return of Disillusion (well, the return of Schmidt and his ever revolving door of musicians), Prophecy have properly pushed the boat out for this release, with various coloured and etched vinyl editions; a version in the form of a hardback book, including a bonus CD with a full-length audio commentary; as well as a standard CD digipak. And it certainly is time to celebrate. Welcome back Schmidt/Disillusion… one of metal’s most criminally underrated and largely undiscovered bands. Let’s hope their Prophecy debut changes the latter and garners some long-deserved, widespread attention for this still amazing Leipzig outfit.
Review by Mark Holmes
6th Sept 2019
1) In Waking Hours
2) Wintertide
3) The Great Unknown
4) A Shimmer in the Darkest Sea
5) The Liberation
6) Time to Let Go
7) The Mountain
"This is narrative based prog metal at its finest, where the music both reflects and drives along poetic lyrical matter on what proves to be a riveting journey from beginning to end."