Time Requiem
Optical Illusion

Once upon a time, I valued technical proficiency above all other musical attributes. It probably had something to do with the musician crowd that I was hanging around with. Then one day, I was sitting in my room and the sad truth struck me. I’m a lousy guitar player, and even though I love playing, I’ll never be great because I just don’t have any natural talent for it. At that point, my musical interests started to change, and I began to listen to music for pure enjoyment again, rather than to critique the guy playing. I soon rediscovered something I knew all along, that a guy like Tony Iommi could say more with those three hollow, ringing notes that open “Black Sabbath” than a lot of the guys I was listening to could say with five minutes of top-speed shredding. I discovered that much of the music I’d been listening to, while impressive as hell from a technical standpoint, was soulless and mechanical, born more from elaborate finger exercises than where music should come from.

So, that’s a long story to say that during that time, I would have absolutely loved Time Requiem. An ongoing project of Swedish keyboardist Richard Andersson, Optical Illusion is another in a string of neo-classical prog efforts. While I liked the last record from his Space Odyssey project, which was suitably spacey, this one leaves me a little cold. Certainly there are touches of the things that I liked on that record here, the strange little interludes, as in “Sin to Sin.” The choppy and sometimes angular guitar riffing, the soaring, impressive solos. But for some reason, they just don’t have the same impact.

The main thing is that the songs here just don’t strike me as having that much passion. Take the finger-pretzeling opening of “The Talisman.” The lick is undeniably impressive, but while I can admire the talent it takes to deliver it, the lick really doesn’t inspire any emotion in me. The band can do it. The main riff of “The Ashen Soul,” a much simpler lick punctuated by dramatic keyboard accents, accomplishes it. Unfortunately, after that chugging riff, they morph back into the pretty standard, galloping chorus used on most of the record. In fact, the best song here is the Hendrix-flavored riffing of “Miracle Man,” which strips away a lot of the pretentiousness of the other songs on the record and delivers up a solid, if perhaps a bit dated, hard rock song. It’s the least technical track on the record, but it also says something besides “look what I can do.”

I can certainly appreciate a record like Optical Illusion, and there are definitely inspiring moments like the neo-classical noodling that opens “Sphere of Fantasy.” But most of the music here doesn’t really make me feel anything. The press notes say the record is for the “true musical connoisseur,” and perhaps that’s the case. I’ve often found that people who refer to themselves as connoisseurs are fairly pretentious, and so is much of the music on this album. For fans of technical excellence, Time Requiem is certainly worth checking out, but for those who prefer an emotional experience when they listen to music, it falls flat.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
April 18th, 2006

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