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Delusion Squared - Delusion Squared II CD (album) cover


Delusion Squared

Crossover Prog

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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, 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.

Report this review (#640935)
Posted Saturday, February 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Delusion Squared have followed up their 2010 debut with this impressive release with the original title of II. Having missed out on their previous album I tracked it down on Spotify and even with only a cursory listen I can confidently say that this one is a significant improvement with much stronger melodies. Clearly a return to their debut is in order, this apparently being a continuation of the concept started there.

It's very much a modern sounding prog album. Despite some heavy guitar work the album has quite a trippy vibe much of the time and is highly melodic and easily accessible. The keyboard work apart from piano is very much synth driven creating atmospheric soundscapes and textures for much of the time. Nevertheless the music has a warm feel aided by considerable use of acoustic guitar and the icing on the cake, the sweet and syrupy vocals of Lorraine Young. While the album has it's heavier and more up tempo moments, opener Double Visions and Necrogenesis being prime examples it's on the mellower and more reflective songs that Young's gorgeous voice can really work its magic and it doesn't get any better than the piano driven Veridical Paradox which is immediately followed by the equally compelling Revelation and Abduction.

The band play well and by being a trio all have to assume more than one instrumental role which they manage admirably. The only downside of the album whilst having a decent production, suffers no doubt because of a limited budget, from a horrible synthetic drum sound. This is clearly not an acoustic kit; electronic drum pads obviously being used. That's a real shame as it's the one blemish on a really great album. Delusion Squared are definitely a band to keep an eye on but would I imagine have to expand to contemplate live shows without resorting to backing tracks. This I'd say they need to do if they wish to reach a wider audience and with the talent on show have plenty of potential to do that.

Report this review (#644832)
Posted Saturday, March 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars If the music business was anything like it was before the digital rape that is now, new talent scouts would be scrambling over one another to sign this band as the new Rush, Porcupine Tree or Evanescence. Delusion Squared II follows up with equal greatness to their fantastic debut album Delusion Squared from 2010. How three people can put together the level of talent that is on these recordings is truly impressive. Steve Francis and Emmanuel de Saint Meen sure can play - multitalented to say the least on electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, piano all playing together or as a beautiful solo instrument. All this topped off by the hauntingly lovely Dido-esque voice of Loraine Young who could easily be a prog nerd's new fantasy girl.

Delusion Squared II captures the modern prog sound with crossover appeal to pop and metal fans that is gaining popularity these days. We once again have a deep concept album about a post-apocalypse world that should please the true progheads, but the four movements and 9 songs stand well alone for the itunes crowd. The production is top notch on the level of Steve Wilson or Arjen Lucasson (Ayreon) quality. Delusion Squared II proves that this is the best new prog band to come out in the last two years. If this band can ever play live, get them to NEARfest(?) or Rosfest ASAP.

Best album of 2012 ??? - we shall see...

Report this review (#652086)
Posted Friday, March 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The first time I heard this album in its entirety and immediately jumped onto progarchives and awarded it five stars without hesitation. After a few days of listening to Delusion Squared I and II virtually non-stop, I maintain my initial rating and more so!

Where the first album maintained an ethereal and atmospheric approach that worked well with the vocal abilities of Lorraine Young, the second album takes that ethereal approach and adds a slick and jarring edge of synthesised keyboards and heavy melodic guitar riffs. The sound is immediate and effective and shows hugely impressive development and progression from the first album.

Stand-out tracks are for me.......well.......all of them really. The whole album is outstanding. There is not a weak track on here. It is very rare that an album is released that is so overwhelmingly powerful and consistent. Before I heard this album, one of my favourite releases of this year was the Touchstone album 'The City Sleeps'. The female-fronted formula is also very similar, but to me the Delusion Squared approach betters the Touchstone album with a more sustained and consistent dose of progressive and innovative melody. Trust me, this is an immense album, a fantastic album and I hope they continue along this line of musical development. Un triomphe Delusion Squared. Remarquable!

Report this review (#656034)
Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'II' - Delusion Squared (8/10)

Though I cannot say I was one of the lucky few to discover DELUSION SQUARED upon the release of their debut in 2010, I was at least made aware of the band through a healthy buzz about this French act's promising sound. Although female-fronted prog and metal bands seem to come wholesale nowadays, DELUSION SQUARED offers listeners an exciting and distinctly modern take on prog that builds upon the success of their first. Blending the strange with the accessible, 'Delusion Squared II' has left me wanting more from the trio.

DELUSION SQUARED does not innovate an entirely 'new' sound in prog rock, but they are eclectic and distinct enough to make them difficult to concisely describe. The songwriting is dominated by Lorraine Young's highly melodic vocals, yet- in opposition to the majority of prog rock-related bands who go down that route- there is no sense of them pursuing an AOR, or 'tame rock' sound with their music. Young's vocals have a pretty sound to them that might not sound out of place on an indie pop LP, but the music is constantly morphing into new exciting shapes. With that in mind, I may describe DELUSION SQUARED as a band defined by an uneasy balance; a balance between catchy vocal hooks and schizoid songwriting, between its electro-ambient soundscaping and quasi-metal riffing, its frightening sonic density and stunning melodies.

The highlight of 'II' is certainly Lorraine's voice; it sounds angelic, and above all, distinctive. Far too often, I find that female voices in prog rock and metal tend to fall into a generic category. Aided in small part due to her cute French accent, Lorraine Young carries a charm with her powerful vocal delivery. The instrumentation by comparison is quite challenging, and- as previously mentioned- is constantly changing up its pace, even transcending the boundaries of style. Within a single song, listeners may expect to hear everything from metal, to ambient, to pop and vintage-inspired prog rock. With musical ideas being tossed around wildly, it becomes difficult to pinpoint particular songs as 'highlights', although the mini-epic 'Necrogenesis' and the tender 'Naked Solipsism' stand out for their stirring melodies. For all of their ambition however, DELUSION SQUARED's production feels the strain of so much activity. Although it may simply be that Lorraine's vocals are mixed a touch too highly, the instruments occasionally feel drowned out by one another, although in a sense this only serves to emphasize how textured the band's sound can get. Suffice, DELUSION SQUARED are one of my favourite discoveries so far of the year. They are are wonderful demonstration of what prog rock can do even almost half a century after its birth.

Report this review (#732444)
Posted Wednesday, April 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Joy of progressive music is the never-ending opportunities for exploration and experimentation - the idea that music should make an attempt to break boundaries rather than be restricted by them. Delusion Squared delicately blend neo-progressive elements with a sci-fi concept that will intrigue the mind. Willowy singer Lorraine Young's soft, dainty vocals are juxtaposed with a spacey synth and chunky metallic riffs, all combining to create a stirring and memorable concept album. Opener "Double Vision" begins with a mellow yet eerie acoustic guitar introduction, before being brought to life by a tinkling synt an almost alternative rock-style bank of guitars. "Necrogenesis" on the other hand is a much more psychedelic and trippy experience where Young's vocals shine and collide withe the edgier harshness of the guitar and drums. "Revelation" touches upon the more driven musical themes of progressive metal, and brings with it a Tool-like quality, wich, when married together with the fragile feminine vocals, is a strikink collision of style. "II" is a remarkable concept and one which will stick in your mind for long after its songs have ended.
Report this review (#733466)
Posted Friday, April 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The first album from Brittany based Delusion squared emerged in 2010 and impressed immediately on several fronts. It was a deeply involving concept album with a strong sci- fi/ecological theme, pitting the power of Mother nature against the evils of modern technology. The trio's music sounded mysterious and ethereal, recalling nothing less than a female fronted Porcupine tree. All those key ingredients are back for album N°2, which is a sequel to their debut. Divided into four distincts parts, II is endearingly meandering and highly complex. Lorraine Young's rich vocals are counterbalanced by Steve Francis's brutal guitar riffs and Emmanuel de Saint Méen's hypnotic keyboard pulses. A mesmerising record ! With a decent producer Delusion squared could become one of prog's all time greats.
Report this review (#775695)
Posted Friday, June 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars French trio DELUSION SQUARED was formed in 2009, and made their debut with a self-titled CD in 2010. "II" is their second full length production, and was also released by the band itself, in February 2012.

With "II" Delusion Squared concludes the story cycle they started to explore on their debut album in a fine manner, the story and music both maintaining the high quality of their first CD. Existing fans should be satisfied quite nicely with this production, and to those not familiar with this band, I'd recommend lending an ear or two to it if you tend to like bands like Porcupine Tree or tend to find artists described as modern art rock to be to your liking.

Report this review (#796533)
Posted Monday, July 30, 2012 | Review Permalink

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