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Delusion Squared

Anthropocene

Review by Gary Hill

This progressive rock outfit consistently produces strong albums. Their sound is more on the AOR mainstream prog end of the spectrum. This new disc is no exception. It has some particularly effective cuts, and nothing is weak. It does have a bit of a tendency to be samey in terms of intensity and tempo. That said, it's not enough to really be a detriment. This is a solid listening experience. The title refers to the current geological age, which is one in which human activity has become the dominant influence on climate and the environment. The set seems to be a concept album about that development.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Devolution
This starts with a radio tuning between different stations of doomsday news reports. Music starts to gradually work upward as one of those stations continues with advice on dealing with the catastrophe. After that voice drops away the music works forward. Sung vocals come in over the top in very classy ways. The song continues to evolve as a cool slower moving prog piece with some cool symphonic elements and a lot of drama in play. After the two minute mark it starts to rock out a bit more with some crunchy guitar entering. This is such a cool melodic AOR based prog tune. As it approaches the five minute mark, it drops way down with more of the talking head in place. Eventually a crunchy guitar threatens to take over as the piece continues to grow after that voice is gone. It works out to the hardest rocking part of the number as the instrumental movement continues.
An Ominous Way Down
Intricate guitar picking opens this. That works through and ends. Then some keyboard textures take over before strummed acoustic guitar rises upward. The piece rocks out from there as other textures take into more powered up territory. The cut eventually makes its way to a melodic progressive rock jam that's quite tasty. There is some crunch in the mix, but also some AOR mellower prog textures. Around the five minute mark, it drops back down to mellower stuff with more of the talking heads (one of them Ronald Reagan) delivering more concepts of gloom and doom. It starts to build upward from there. Once those voices are gone, it rocks a bit more insistently.
Necessary Evil
Mellow, but intriguing and still rocking, sounds open this. Tastefully processed vocals come over the top delivering a bit of a trippy texture. The cut gets more organic beyond this introductory section as it moves into more AOR prog styled sounds. This is moody and dark, and so cool. Around the minute and a half mark a short instrumental movement with a keyboard emphasis really works well. After another vocal based section, an instrumental portion really brings it to new heights of power and emotion. It resolves from there to a more melodic movement.
Walls and Protection
With more of the spoken bits over the top, this has a cool rhythm section driven rocking sound as it builds outward. The prog rocking groove on this is just so cool. One of the most powered up cuts here, this is still quite AOR based. It's a classy tune, and a nice bit of variety. The harder rocking jam later in the piece is particularly tasty.
To This Day
Dramatic symphonic keyboards open this in a very powerful, classically based way. That introduction drops away and picked acoustic guitar takes over to move things forward. It builds outward from there with some classy melodic prog stylings. There is a tasty melodic guitar solo after the two minute mark. It eventually evolves into more moody melodic progressive rock as this marches forward.
Under Control
This tune comes in as more of a hard rocker. There is a great energy and crunch to it. After this extended introduction runs through, it drops way down for the first vocal based movement. They crunch it back out with a vengeance after that verse, though, driving with a harder rocking sound for the next vocal sections. The chorus takes on some more melodic hooks.
Heirs of Time
Percussion leads this number out of the gate. The vocals come over the top of that backdrop. Other musical elements gradually build on the top, at first very atmospherically. Hints of melodic instrumental work pop up but drop away. Eventually the melodic elements take more of a commanding role, but it really does remain mostly percussive in terms of the musical arrangement for quite a while. This is another potent AOR prog tune.
The Promised Land
A mellow cut, this is slow moving and moody. It reminds me a bit of The Beatles in some ways. It's gentle, and quite pretty. The instrumental section later in the track brings some more proggy elements to the fore, but overall this cut is less prog rocker and more melodic mainstream tune.
Original Sin
Coming in hard rocking and a bit unpredictable, this is one heck an intriguing cut. It drops to a bit mellower section with prominent bass guitar work and a moody sound, but then stomps back upward from there. While the shifts and changes land it under progressive rock, the crunch at times on this would make it work as progressive metal. The balance between powered up and dropped back stuff on this is classic, too. This is really quite a dynamic and diverse piece of music.
The Great Leap
Piano brings this into being. The vocals come in over the top of that backdrop as the piece works forward. It gets worked upward with more keyboards over that combination. It evolves slowly into more of a full band arrangement. It's still a mellower balladic like cut, though. An instrumental section later takes it into a bit more rocking territory before dropping back to keyboards. The vocals come over the top of that, and it works out to the song proper from there.
Prayer
Piano and atmosphere open this cut and move it forward. Other musical elements gradually rise upward. This instrumental remains fairly mellow throughout, but does work through some changes. It's melancholy, but feels a bit hopeful at the same time. It's quite pretty and makes for a decent closing piece.
 
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