REVIEW: Illumishade – Another Side of You

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Modern melodic metal is a genre on the rise on the metal scene, with such acts as AD INFINITUM, CYHRA, METALITE, AMARANTHE, and ILLUMISHADE spearheading its growth with their releases. Sure, all are different bands with different sounds but the basis of their music is the combination of a good, memorable melody with electronic elements, cinematic/symphonic soundscapes, and lush, powerful vocals. Swiss metal outfit ILLUMISHADE are only on their second studio effort with “Another Side of You” but they are already making a name for themselves in the European (symphonic) metal community by having toured with DELAIN and XANDRIA. The album is out on February 16th, 2024, via Napalm Records.

The follow-up to the acclaimed “ECLYPTIC: Wake of Shadows” (2020) is another serving of charming and cinematic songs that boast a subtle Disney-ish atmosphere complete with gorgeous vocals from Fabienne Erni (ELUVEITIE), djenty guitar melodies from Jonas Wolf (ELUVEITIE), a wonderfully cinematic sound design thank to Mirjam Skal’s orchestrations, and a sleek, polished production. Despite being a long affair with a total of fourteen tracks (including an intro and an interlude), the album flows with melody, emotion, and ethereal ambiance that juxtapose the heavier sounds coming from the guitars, bass, and drums. It’s a rollercoaster of textured soundscapes, melodic moments, and more aggressive sections that showcase a more mature approach to the songwriting and the technical delivery.

The intro, “Enter the Void,” opens the album with pulsating synth and violin lines that make the transition to the first proper track, “ELEGY,” a bit jarring as guitars and drums take over before Fabienne Erni’s crystal-clear vocals come in. The track, which was released back in November 2022, neatly juxtaposes a melodic, soothing chorus with heavy riffs and an ominous atmosphere while the backing orchestrations (which include a Theremin!) add melody and depth to the music. This track, as well as the next one, “ENEMY,” are good examples of ILLUMISHADE’s intricate writing style as most of their songs twist and turn in unexpected directions. “ENEMY” starts with heavy riffs and grittier vocals that make way for a quieter moment that leads to the melodic chorus. The low-tuned guitar work is especially preeminent and energetic on this track making it one of the heaviest in the band’s catalogue. Another heavy cut is album highlight “CYCLONE” where pounding drums, groovy bass lines, and chugging guitars juxtapose with the melodic/ethereal vocals. There’s an intense instrumental build-up halfway through the song that gives way to a cinematic moment of piano and synth before the final crescendo of the chorus transitions into a rather serene closing moment.

As per the stunning cover artwork, the album is built on contrast both within the songs themselves (as pointed out in the above paragraph) as well as on the overall sound design, meaning that there are also lighter songs that balance out the darkness of the aforementioned one. This is also true of the lyrical content (by bass player Yannick Urbanczik) not just the instrumental side. As such, the anthemic “Here We Are” offers a healthy dose of optimism with its lyrics and stomping chorus while the chugging rhythm is elevated by Mirjam Skal’s backing orchestrations. The radiant “Cloudreader” is one of the album’s most beautiful moments boasting dynamic drumming, emotional vocals, and some wonderful guitar moments. Actually, this album really convinced me of what an amazing guitar player Jonas Wolf is, contrasting delicate, soulful playing with aggressive riffs and all-around excellent solos. The emotional ballad “Fairytale,” the second most beautiful moment on the record, convinces thanks to Fabienne Erni’s candid and powerful delivery backed up by delicate percussions and a dreamlike atmosphere. This is where the Disney vibe I mentioned earlier is more palpable.

Interlude “The Horizon Awaits” leads us to the final stretch of the album with a crescendo of ethereal sounds and piano strokes that only demonstrate Mirjam Skal’s ability to conjure cinematic beauty with apparent ease. The melodic single “HYMN” feels more straightforward in terms of structure with beautifully layered vocals in the chorus and a delicate ambiance that is only broken by the superb guitar solo. All this juxtaposes nicely with the darker tones of “TWILY” where a guitar riff pops up here and there only to clash with the vocals and (together with the groovy drums) add weight and heaviness to the fold. Fast-paced “Riptide” is probably the most headbang-ish track on the album with a solid rhythmic foundation and an overbearing atmosphere while “Hummingbird” brings things down with piano, backing percussions, vocals, and humming that adds an aura of darkness. The album closer “Verliebt,” which features Coen Jannsen (EPICA) on piano, is sung in Swiss German and drips with emotions from the passionate vocal delivery.

All-in-all, “Another Side of You” not only builds on the strong melodic foundations of its predecessor but branches out into different soundscapes from light and breezy to heavy and ominous and much else in between showcasing the expanse of ILLUMISHADE’s sonic spectrum. But then again with such a band name that fuses the idea of light and darkness, this type of music that hinges on these extremes is pretty much a given and, as I pointed out in the review, this album is all about melodic contrasts and lyrical juxtapositions. “Another Side of You” showcases new and exciting sides of the Swiss band (pun intended) while also being a testament to their growth as a band and drive to expand their musical horizons. The modern metal anthems collected on this album make ILLUMISHADE one of the bands to watch in the coming years as the potential for greatness is already there.

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

1    Enter the Void    
2    ELEGY    
3    ENEMY    
4    In the Darkness    
5    Cloudreader    
6    Here We Are    
7    CYCLONE    
8    Fairytale    
9    The Horizon Awaits    
10   HYMN    
11   TWILY    
12   Riptide    
13   Hummingbird    
14   Verliebt (feat. Coen Janssen)

Lineup

Fabienne Erni – Voice, Piano     
Jonas Wolf – Guitars     
Mirjam Skal – Orchestration / Synths    
Yannick Urbanczik – Bass            
Marc Friedrich – Drums

Label

Napalm Records

Links

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