The New Classics: Disillusion – ‘Back to Times of Splendor’


The year was 2004. In Flames had released Soundtrack to Your Escape, arguably putting the final nail in the coffin of melodic death metal. A genre that had eaten itself and become synonymous with the peaking US metalcore, and the genre was now almost a parody of itself. However, there was a hero to emerge. After one EP, The Porter, 2 years earlier, Germany’s Disillusion were about to reinvigorate an entire scene with their full length debut, the aptly named Back to Times of Splendor

by E. Thomas

Intentional  or otherwise, bearing arguably one of the more apt album titles of all time, Disillusion’s Back to Time of Splendor (my initial review here), for many (who had not heard the obscure The Porter EP), was a breath of fresh air. The album ultimately garnered critical acclaim and was my personal top album of the year.

What made the album so special above and beyond injecting a dying genre with some much needed creativity? Well other than the clear NWSDM vibe it rode in on, it rubs shoulders with the then arguable kings of metal at the time Opeth, in also adding experimentation and atmospherics and melding light /dark textures into melodic death metal. Long songs and some artfully done clean croons along with a sense of Rush like ambitious, progressive elegance topped everything off. The result? 56 minutes of pure, some would say indulgent, sonic bliss. Every song a piece of genius. One only need to listen to one of the album’s true standouts, “Fall” to see how truly special the song writing was on this album. Folks that is how  you write a hook, a great chorus and some truly special transitions.

Current guitarist Sebastian Hupfer was able to shed some light on whether he thinks the album should be considered a classic. “There are a lot of people out there telling us that they are still listen to Back to Times of Splendor. That makes us really grateful. So the record is special for us but it is not on us to say whether it is a new classic or not”, But the humble Hupfer admits the band wasn’t out to write an album that would be considered a ‘classic’ over a decade later; ” I think every artist would say that his or her next record will be something special at that moment. Nevertheless there was kind of an intense energy when Disillusion released Back to Times of Splendor“.

That intense energy clearly drove founder Andy Schmidt ( AKA ‘Vurtox’) to create and album that shattered boundaries, yet had a familiar warmth of a once respected genre. The swirling melodies, delicate violins here and there and his unique clean singing gave the album a regal, aloof aura, but it was still a magical collection of compositions. Continues Hufper: “I think BTTOS takes its power out of emotions that grasped Andy during that period of writing. It is an honest record and we would definitely change nothing. It is like it is”.

And many folks at Metal Blade knew they were onto something when they got their hands on the album. Andreas Reissnauer who promoted the album European release knew it would be a classic: ” Of course I knew it would be a classic. I signed the band to Metal Blade back then. The album was a huge step forward from the EPs they did before and we knew it straight from the start when we first listened to BTTOS in it´s entirety. And Kelli Mallela, who did the US promotion, and who actually sent me the CD for review agrees: “Disillusion’s BTTOS is one of metal’s unicorns. It’s just damn magical. Since I got my hands on the advance to this very day, I cannot get enough of this album and play it all the time from front to back. And if I happen to be driving I even do my best to sing along!”.

Over a decade later, people are still talking about it as a fantastic album. Even to the point, as a reviewer, is one of those albums that now gets used as a benchmark for the style. Also, the band has been on tour playing the album in its entirety, another testament to the album’s quality. “As people still want to hear it and it is fun to play, we are happy to present it live. Even though we also want to embrace our fans with new material, BTTOS is an important part of our lives but also progress to new fields”. I can only imagine the thrill of hearing the sheer opulence of the 15 minute title track below in a live environment as well as the rest of the album.

But new fields certainly came,  as 2006 saw the band release Gloria, a far more divisive record that dropped much of the pure metal and added much more electronic and programmed elements much to the chagrin of fans of this album. ” Of course Gloria was different and a step forward. As critics describe Disillusion as an progressive band, but the record by itself is the meaning of moving forward-  a “here we go and save the past” kind of thing”.

After a few quiet years since Gloria, the band is active again and along with the aforementioned BTTOS tour, there are rumors of new material and a new album son. But Hupfer is close lipped about the immediate future for Disillusion and what further developments the band might take: “We are working on new stuff. I can not disclosure more at the moment”. And with that we are left wanting and hoping that Disillusion will again return back to a time of splendor…..

 

Comments

  1. Commented by: Blake Solomon

    Classic album for sure Erik! Damn, I wish I wasn’t at work right now during my lunch break reading metal reviews and I was at home blasting BTTOS!

    You know, I have never heard of The Porter Ep… Off to eBay and Discogs!

    However, I DO own their actual first mini-album “Three Neuron Kings” from 2001..have you ever heard that???


  2. Commented by: Dave

    This is such an excellent album, I’m glad to see it getting some praise. It’s hard to articulate how much I listened to this after I first heard it back around 2005, and I still listen to it to this day. It’s really an almost perfect album. Regarding Gloria, my initial impression of that one was tepid at best, though I’ll admit it has grown on me quite a bit over the years. It’s encouraging to hear that this band is making some new music, I can only hope it could match the quality of BTTOS.


  3. Commented by: Luis Felipe

    I totally agree. Amazing album. One of my favourites, for sure. I Wish they weren’t so underestimated. Really hyped for the new release.


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