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Delusion Squared - Delusion Squared II CD (album) cover

DELUSION SQUARED II

Delusion Squared

 

Crossover Prog

3.87 | 142 ratings

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mitchgo
5 stars Fans of modern prog can't swing a dead cat these days without hitting a hot, up-and-coming "female fronted" band. The sub-sub genre arbitrarily ties together a slew of groups with only the gender of their singer in common. Some are folky, some are more technical, some sound like Yes, some sound like Renaissance. Some are commercial like Touchstone, and some are just downright weird like White Willow (whose recent TERMINAL TWILIGHT album is one of my favorite records, in any genre, of the past decade.)

I've heard most of these bands, and some I love and some I just can't connect with. So I thought i had some idea of what I'd hear on my first spin of Delusion Squared's second album (titled II, which is either obvious or charmingly retro, I'm not sure which). I knew, and still know, next to nothing about this French trio...they all seem to be multi-instrumentalists...they're from France...um, that's about it. That lack of image gave my mind a real tabula rasa kind of start when II first hit my ears, and the ominous tones that open Double Vision (love the Foreigner reference!) gave me no clue where the tune was headed, which was straight into a powerful, semi-heavy almost arena-ish mid tempo territory. Necrogenesis kicks off with even scarier noises, a synthesized horn line, and BAM...DS blast into high gear and fast tempo, so we know where this is going...and then the song breaks down into a spacy, quirky, syncopated song almost entirely at odds with where it began.  And yeah, it's all like this, DS blazing down one trail only to turn and show you something different 8 or 16 or 24 bars later. Necrogenesis itself is a mini-epic journey in under 8 minutes, where dynamics and arrangement shift organically as you move from moment to moment. DS's songs are "progressive" in the best sense...they change in surprising ways, but never seem forced. I kept having these "wow, i didn't see THAT coming!" moments on my first listen, which, considering all the music I've consumed in my life, is not a common experience. Unlike a lot of modern prog, DS exhibit some clear influences but never sound derivative.

The playing throughout is excellent, technical without ever retreating into wanker-ness or showmanship. Emmanuel de Saint Meen and Steve Francis split much of the instrumentation, and it's not clear who's playing what, or when, and that adds to the mystique. Lorraine Young's vocals are expressive, but also at times fittingly distant, and, while I can't swear English is her second language, she does enunciate the way many non-English singers do. This isn't a criticism...I find the phonetic quality this lends to vocals very pleasing, as it removes the semantic approach of the lyrics and makes the singing essentially another instrument. So if there is an overriding concept running through II, it's not obvious to me...the music evokes a variety of powerful emotions on its own, apart from the lyrics. As you would expect, there's an undercurrent of melancholy and darkness in a lot of the songs.

Song highlights include the afore-mentioned Necrogenesis; the Dream Theater-ish punch of Recipe for Disaster; the spacy, bass-driven Revelation; the aptly-titled, almost painfully intimate (until it explodes midway through) Naked Solipsism;  and the thrilling album closer Unexpected Messiah. But really the album should be experienced as a whole, where the flow and emotional journey are really exposed. Like all great prog, II is firmly entrenched in the "album as art" tradition.

If all this seems hyperbolic, well, check out the reviews for DS's first album. One review claims "sometimes the hype is justified". II makes one thing clear: Delusion Squared are gonna need more hype.

5 STARS. Highly recommended for prog fans everywhere.

mitchgo | 5/5 |

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