I’m sure we can all agree that if it wasn’t for the geniuses, the mavericks, the inventors, and the experimenters of this world we would all be living in a grim and destitute place consumed by darkness and destruction. If the likes of Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Leonardo Da Vinci did not exist, where would we be today? The same can be said for the advancement of our beloved metal. With open arms we embrace those who experiment, those risk-takers who take the form forward, the advance guard who pave the way for copy-cats to follow. As the pioneers surge ahead into a glorious vista, The Chronicles of Israfel wobble and hobble with the wives and children at the baggage train near the back, drunk from last-nights ale and crippled with a mind-numbing fear. With the experimental and progressive tag thrust upon the band I expected nothing and everything. I expected great things from their one-hour-plus Goliath (coming an epic nine years after their debut) of an album: A Trillion Lights, Tome II. What I actually experienced was something way different.
First main track “Goddamned” opens with a medley of rehashed Lamb of God riffs before sliding like a putrid wet fart into a heavily modulated clean-vocal passage reminiscent of all-time Angry Metal Guy favorites, Underoath and Pierce the Veil1. Self-indulgent adolescent lyrics – “He’s calling out to me/He’s calling out to you/ I won’t believe until I see the fucking truth” – sit on top of cardboard riffs and dreamy electronic sounds that linger with puke-inducing self-assertion. Similarly laughable and distracting moments occur throughout the album, which is a shame because there are moments of proficiency that pop their heads up only to be forced back underground. The harsh vocals aren’t much better either. “Nightmare” begins with a semi-exciting cyber industrial throb until the cherry-bursts and all turns flaccid; although the song gets into a decent groove the clean vocals elbow their way to center stage and showboat. The harsh vocals – the abrasive squawkings of a man tortuously transforming into a seagull – are similarly unappealing.
Multi-instrumentalist Israfel (Dominic Cifarelli) is undeniably talented. “I Remember,” for example, opens with vicious technicality and explosive speed; the guitars crank and fizz with a machine-like power that leans closer to the extreme-metal spectrum. Even the drums that mostly sound so hollow and flat show signs of forthrightness. Similarly “Life I Know” opens with a crushing energy before sliding into soulless meandering. Good moments are swiftly subdued and replaced with whining and poppy flatness. This album would fair so much better if it was completely instrumental; the vocals just do not work well at all. There are some incredibly atmospheric and technically-proficient moments that are bookended and cut-off by shit (no other word can describe it.).
The dark and folky interludes that are interspersed in the album for the sake of it are surprisingly good. The vocals suit the sombre and forlorn tone and the music itself is interesting. During “Spirit Carousel” the faintest trace of a lone ukulele accompanied by slide guitars and whispered female vocals combine to great effect. “Greet the Sun” is similarly powerful as a fluttering banjo sound ghosts its way between expressive vocals. This is not a folk album, however, and this certainly isn’t a folk music site. For those looking for quality, consistency, and coherence run, run as far away as you can!
I’d like to touch upon the album’s saving grace: the final track “The Turning of the Heavens.” It’s a 12-minute plus instrumental gem of a song that, in the context of the 50-minutes that precede it, feels out of place. There is a real sense of cohesion and flow here, largely due to what feels like a switching of focus from the vocals to the instrumentals. The song moves through various memorable moments – from solemn piano led vibrations to sections of thunderous thrash, from Dream Theatre-esque keyboard led passages to theatrical yet dramatic Devin Townsend-esque moments – and it’s genuinely worth checking out, just ignore the rest.
A Trillion Lights, Tome II is a dramatic mess of an album. It’s essentially fan-fiction in musical form: sloppy, outrageous and cringe-inducing. Rare moments of genuine flair are crushed under the weight of angst-ridden lyrics, whiney pop-core cleans, generic cut-and-paste metalcore riffs, and general chaos. This is a long and arduous journey that does not need to be taken, unless you’re up for a real challenge.