The short version of this review is that “Illusions of Grandeur” sounds like so much other Gothenburg melodic death metal. At the Gates, Amon Amarth, Dark Tranquillity and the rest are all there as these hard-driving melodic songs deliver riff after riff, the occasional guitar solo, triumphant crescendos and chord progressions, and growling monotone vocals all over the relentless double kick.
The longer version is that Evocation was there at the start of the Gothenburg movement and disbanded in 1993 without releasing a record (although a couple of demos made the rounds and were released together in 2004). Reforming in 2005 they have since released four albums, including this. As to the question of who sounds like who – who was playing what sound first – this history makes it less clear, so I thought I’d avoid further comparisons with the other bands and look at “Illusions” in the context of Evocation themselves.
It’s easy to notice a shift from the band’s first two albums and to a lesser degree “Apocalyptic”, largely due to the level of production but also clear changes in playing and songwriting style. Gone are the blast beats and grind beats, the drum sound now much softer with less clicking and sharp snare, although it’s still fast and flowing. There is less fuzziness in the guitar, the melodies are stronger and in many ways lighter and more uplifting. The band makes more use of dynamics and tempo changes, this variation adding a level of interest that wasn’t always there in “Tales From the Tomb” and “Dead Calm Chaos”. The vocals are clearer and easier to understand without losing the growling and partner well with the clearer overall sound of the instruments.
‘Perceptions of Reality’ is a great example, shifting from an orderly bombastic military feel to free flowing chaos and back again. It feels like a battle between a huge army against a small band of freedom-fighters, or more personally between the barrage of the world telling you to conform and your freedom to be yourself. There’s a lot of thought in these songs and they work well and are played well.
So are all these changes in the Evocation sound good or bad? That depends on your perspective. I quite like it but I won’t pretend it’s a bold new sound and it does lose the raw edge and lower production levels of previous records. This sounds like a record from a Swedish melodic death metal band that wants to appeal to a wider market and break out from the underground – a point they hardly hide from by putting the intentions up in lights. And this is often the curse of bands who were there at the start of a movement but never got the accolades. Evocation will continue to be regarded by many as late on the scene and this record as an attempt to follow in the wake of the success of Amon Amarth. Who knows – if only those dreaded ‘musical differences’ hadn’t reared their ugly heads 19 years ago things may be the other way round?
Of course this sounds like Gothenburg melodic death metal and therefore has much in common with other Gothenburg melodic death metal. It’s a pretty narrow sub-sub-genre. The question is, is this a very good record? The answer is yes.