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ILLUSORY The Ivory Tower Reissue

By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Tuesday, May 7, 2024 @ 5:15 PM


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ILLUSORY
The Ivory Tower
Reissue
Metal Throne Records - 2023
http://www.illusoryband.com




Originally released in 2013 on The Leaders Records, The Ivory Tower is the first studio album from Greek metal luminaries ILLUSORY.

I only discovered the band back in 2021 when they released their masterpiece album The Crimson Wreath. But since then I've become a huge fan and supporter of the band and their music. That said, I hadn't yet listened to the band's first two albums. I was initially waiting for my CD editions to come into my hands but since The Ivory Tower was only available in cassette or via digital release, I put things off even though I had gotten a cassette edition to tide me over until I could get a CD version.

Then late last year the news came that, to mark the 10th anniversary of the album's release, there would finally be a CD reissue of the disc. You may be wondering why I'm still kind of late in writing this review and the simple reason is that it took a good long while before I was able to get my hands on this reissue. Then came the listening process which also took a good amount of time because this is a deeply involving album given that ILLUSORY didn't just give us a standard debut album. Instead, this is an album that has a full story to accompany the music...the story of Steven Towers, a man who rose to the top of his world through lies and deceit only to fall from those heights to the lowest of depths.

So I wanted to be sure that I had not only a full grasp on the music but the story as well before putting words to metaphorical paper. That time is now and man it was well worth the wait!

The lineup that recorded The Ivory Tower is only half of the band's current lineup. Besides singer Dee Theodoru, guitarist George Papantonis and drummer Costas Koulis, the band's roster then included Dimitris Kourmousis on guitar, George Konstantakelos on keyboards and Dimitris Pliatsika on bass. While those three musicians may no longer be in the band, they certainly left their mark with The Ivory Tower.

The album opens with the song "Utopia". It might be easy to dismiss this instrumental as a kind of table setting piece that introduces the story of Steven Towers before you get to the more meaty music of the album. But you'd be doing yourself a disservice by skipping over this one. As I listened to it, I found it to be rather beautiful sounding, the guitar-led music just getting inside my head as I prepared for what was to come.

I should say that I did have one previous experience with The Ivory Tower album before getting my CD copy and listening to it. And that came on Saturday January 13th, 2024 when the band played a hometown show in Moschato, Greece to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the album's release. It was livestreamed online and I got to watch the show. I came away happy with what I heard. But that live presentation was just an appetizer that set me up fully for what I was going to hear as I listened to the CD.

That shock and awe started most impressively with the song "A Few Days Make Eternity". The song title itself was instantly appealing to me but the rocking nature of the song's music sure kept my expectations on high alert! It kicks off with an immediate full throttle rocking pace but the song pulls back a bit in the middle section before it revs back up to finish with a crescendo. I love the song's title given the imagery it conjured up in my mind from my many years as a science fiction fan. While the song has no ties to that particular storytelling genre, before I listened to it, that's where my mind went. Setting aside the opening instrumental track, this was quite a way to grab hold of anyone listening to the album and make them sit up and take notice.

It should be noted that the liner notes for the album includes the chapter-by-chapter story behind each song as it relates to the full story. This makes it easier to follow along with the story. You get not only the story chapters but inside each song you know which character is speaking through the lyrics. For me, this makes The Ivory Tower that much more of an all-encompassing experience.

The song "Beyond Eternal" opens with a more sedate almost ethereal intro before the songs morphs into an explosive and blistering delivery. The song takes Steven even further on his downward spiral as drug addiction leads him to be stuck in his own mind.

Guest singer Mary Tirou joins Dee Theodoru on the song "Anywhere". She works both with his vocals and serves as a counterpoint as the lyrics explore Steven's waking up to the fact that his past is gone and he stuck in the present with nowhere to go and no one to rely on. The song does have a mostly uptempo style but the pace is kicked up a bit more after the first guitar solo. The guitar playing overall on this song was excellent. I particularly enjoyed that first solo a lot.

While I liked everything I heard on The Ivory Tower right from the first spin of this reissued edition of the album, "Pale Moonlight" was another track that just blew me away from that very first time it played through on the CD. Good gawd was this a performance, or what? Killer pacing is one thing but everything about this song was just amazing! Dee's vocals soared and the music was beautifully intense as Steven tries to find his way back but believing he's all alone. This is just a killer cut!

There's a bit of a different spin on the song "Society". For the most part the music is dramatically slower, with more of an acoustic spin to the guitar playing. That is until the more ferocious sound that ILLUSORY employs for the song's chorus. Story-wise, the song's lyrics play like they are an inner monologue for Steven. The line "The cornerstone of my own hell" was a particularly noteworthy lyric for me.

The song "I Lied To Me" is a song told in two acts. "Act I: Shades of Gray" is another explosively powerful track that really grabbed ahold of me right from the start. I loved the way the keyboards were used throughout the song. The way this song and its lyrics explored everything, even friends, that Steven had lost only to replaced by a "friend" that was anything but was gripping, to say the least. "Act II: Promises" was barely over a minute in length and presented with a slower, more dramatic feel.

That second part of the song leads directly into the song "Fake Reality", a song that finds Steven coming to realizations about the world and himself. Featuring a propulsive soundtrack (including an absolutely amazing solo), this song bursts forth from your speakers and just rattles around in your head repeatedly. The way ILLUSORY uses the "gang vocal" technique on this track gives a bit of a theatrical flare to the performance as well.

The album's title track closes out both the regular part of the disc and Steven's story. No spoilers on that second part because I really do want people to check out The Ivory Tower for themselves but is a rather stunning concluding chapter. Over the course of its nearly 10-minute running time, the song hits epic heights as the band wraps up the story of Steven Towers.

The song kicks off with a slower paced intro and then blazes forth into a brightly burning rocker. Once again, the guitar playing was particularly noteworthy on this song. I also loved the way Dee's vocals were done on this track. There was just a little bit of an extra grit or perhaps growl to how they came off which fit perfectly to the song lyrics. Oh, and there are plenty of memorable lyrical lines in this song as well.

The reissue comes with two bonus tracks. They are "A Few Days Make Eternity" and "Society" but these versions come from the self-titled album that ILLUSORY released when they were still known under the band name IVORY TOWER. I happen to have a copy of that very rare edition in my collection. It's great to see these versions get a little spotlight and I enjoyed hearing them a lot.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, I am a huge fan of ILLUSORY's most recent album, the incredible Crimson Wreath. So I guess I might be a little predisposed to wanting to like this album as well. That said, there's always the chance I won't like a band's earliest beginnings when I discover them after the fact.

What makes The Ivory Tower surpass even my expectations was how the band not only crafted 10 songs that stand out on their own merits but tied them all into one central story. I read a fair number of books in any given year, so I'm definitely a "story guy" and I happen to really enjoy concept albums as well. With The Ivory Tower ILLUSORY made one hell of an affecting and effective debut statement. This is metal music at its finest!

5.0 Out Of 5.0


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