It's been a while since we've been given a front-row seat as a band self-destructs this spectacularly. MORGOTH going from bleak death metal to KILLING JOKE in the mid-1990s… the "black metal to weird industrial" metamorphosis of bands like MAYHEM and COVENANT a few years later… and of course, looming over all failed career experiments like a monument to sheer bad taste and planning, CELTIC FROST's "Cold Lake" debacle.Add Germany's DISILLUSION to the list, because the general opinion of their sophomore effort, "Gloria", seems to be somewhere between stunned disbelief and flat-out anger. Their debut album, "Back to Times of Splendor", was a masterful and impressive mix of death, black, thrash and progressive metal into a sound that was creative, passionate and complex. They seemed poised to change the face of metal as a next-generation OPETH, a band for whom the sky was the limit. "Gloria" could be the debut album from an entirely different band. Here we get strange electronic metal, stripped-down and streamlined riffing, vocals that rarely rise above digitally-treated spoken word, and strange production choices that bring the sound into some dour, unwelcoming middle ground between PORCUPINE TREE and RAMMSTEIN. It's ambitious, sure, and the band had to know they'd alienate most of the people who like their debut, so you gotta give them credit for the brass balls required to embark on such a course. Unfortunately, blind ambition without focus or good ideas usually leads to a mess. What we get on "Gloria" is a muddled, confusing and joyless mash of bad electronica, overwrought theatrical vocals, boring riffs, and pretentious noodling. There's a sodden, depressed aura throughout, not so much atmospheric as oppressive, and even when there's a glimmer of interesting music (as on "Dread It"), the miserable vibe and maudlin, mumbled vocals kill off the interest quickly. In fact, the chorus of "Dread It" is one of the few moments where an interesting, progressive metal band can still be heard sounding like they aren't asleep at the switch. Compare this to "Don't Go Any Further", a wretched and painful song built around a repetitive stanza of spoken words and tired industrial metal sounds, or the ludicrous title track, an epic of meandering treated guitars and blasé vocals. Frustration again sets in on "The Hole We Are In", a dense, unforgiving song with as many intelligent, emotional, heavy jamming parts as there are dreary programmed sounds and uninspired passages. Someone will probably defend DISILLUSION by saying that what they've done on "Gloria" is just too groundbreaking, and that uneducated hessians like us just can't wrap our heads around it. That ain't it, folks — we've heard gloomy Goth rock before, we've watched extreme metal bands follow uncharted paths to disaster before, and we know a failed experiment when we hear one.
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