| Artist: VLE|
CD Title: Book of Illusions: Chapter I & II
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
VLE is a solo project based in experimental improvisation. With no programming or retakes, each section was recorded live in an attempt to capture the mood of the moment. This is quite impressive seeing as how there are very few major technical flubs here (give or take a few tempo problems here and there, although even the drum tracks are generally quite impressive seeing as how most songs started out with guitar/keyboards recorded without a click track). Most of the flaws come in the form of source/recording/production flaws like tape hiss, pops/clicks, clipping, and occasionally flawed mixing (the vocals are usually buried six feet under everything else). Yes, as the artist admits, this is somewhat lo-fi material that often started out in the womb of an old 4-track recorder. However, don't let that sway you. This is still a compelling album of well written (albeit apparently not "written" in the traditional sense) and performed, highly emotional material.
Chapter I leans more in the direction of alt rock and goth/black metal territory. Things start out with "Kano", a mellow piece that opens all three chapters of Book of Illusions and features guest Michael Molina on acoustic drums. While I actually found it to be one of the album's weaker tracks, it's followed by a diverse array of fairly solid offerings. From the riff-driven alt rock and ethereal vocals of "Freedom to Fly" to the black metal vocals and beautiful dark metal of its two center tracks and the short goth metal dirge "Drift", VLE's heavier side is well represented. "Timeless" even features a black metal style double bass drum section, something rarely even attempted by a guitarist playing the drums through a keyboard much less done so successfully. VLE's lighter side returns in the backwards recordings and experimental noise of "3 in 5" and the ethereal closer "Stark", which is fairly nice despite being plagued by a fair amount of tape hiss.
Chapter II, unlike its predecessor, is firmly planted in keyboard-based ethereal material. Many of the songs here are comprised of short instrumental bits interspersed between longer, more substantial material, including the requisite "Kano" opening and a return of Chapter I's "Stark". While the abruptness of the shorter tracks creates a slightly choppier flow as far as the work as a whole is concerned, it's still certainly a rewarding listen. Often constructed from beautiful melodic content and immaculate layering (and at times even tying it's parts together conceptually through the use of motif), the second chapter of VLE's work does an excellent job of painting beautiful, emotional soundscapes.
While Book of Illusions: Chapters I & II is certainly not without its flaws (most of them, as mentioned before, being production flaws rather than the material), it's still an interesting release both sonically and conceptually. Diverse, experimental, and expressive, VLE has managed to create a work of rock/metal-oriented material and melodic, layered ethereal/experimental sound sculptures that often work on an instinctual rather than intellectual level to convey emotion. Fans of moody ethereal, experimental, or even metal music who can overlook the album's occasional inherent recording defects will likely find VLE's Book of Illusions: Chapters I and II both interesting and rewarding.
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