Illusions Dead - Celestial DecadenceWhile I’m a man who has never invaded a cottage owned by bears, eaten their porridge, and slept in their beds while complaining about everything the entire damn time, I sometimes feel a bit like Goldilocks when commenting on melo-death. Sometimes melo-death can be too soft, coming across as sickeningly sugary and too much like guitar-heavy pop or bubblegum metalcore. Sometimes it can be too hard, sounding like regular death metal with needless weepy guitar histrionics that sound out of place. Outside of Sulphur Aeon, it’s hard to find a band that’s just right in the current phase of the genre, but just like that old fairytale went, it’s the young bear’s stuff that ended up being the best. Illusions Dead are a young Finnish melo-death band set to release their first full-length Celestial Decadence, and they’ve taken an interesting path in trying to hit the “just right” mark.

Given that the word “Finnish” has been used, it can be assumed that the melodies here are pretty melancholic. To my ears, Tales from the Thousand Lakes is a good comparison, but Illusions Dead cites Insomnium as an influence, which can clearly be heard too. Also mentioned in their relatively short list are two cred-boosting melo-death scene darlings, Intestine Baalism and Anata. The latter’s 2006 effort The Conductor’s Departure plays an especially noticeable role in parts of the sound on offer. There’s a bit of black metal in the mix as well, and it’s of the Norwegian and heavily melodic variety. The band mentioned Gorgoroth by name, but we can confidently add Immortal to the growing list of comparisons. Another comparison in riffing that I kept coming back to in my notes was At the GatesAt War With Reality. This is due to the darker nature of the melodies there as opposed to Slaughter of the Soul, and this fits with Celestial Decadence’s overall sound well.

I’m a sucker for a good opener, and “Incursion” nails it. This short little number showcases everything good about Celestial Decadence: the great guitar interplay, the somber yet exhilarating melodies, no time wasted on fluff, and a vocal performance that spends the whole song in overdrive. “Hour of the Raven” shows Illusions Dead can drive a good song with their foot lighter on the gas, as Infernus’ modern “token Gorgoroth slow track” playing style is put to good use alongside more traditional Finnish melo-death parts. Immortal’s slow tunes are an influence too, and the ending is an exciting and fitting climax that brings various parts of the song together in a great way. “The Way of the Deceiver” reminds me of Anaal Nathrakh’s more restrained and melodic moments such as those in “Satanarchist” if they were mixed with later Immortal and forced into a melo-death track. This mixture works well, and the song is a highlight because of it.

Illusions Dead 2016

Now back to Goldilocks. In an unfortunate instance of too soft that would make the Royale toilet paper kittens say “whoa dudes, calm down” in matching squeaky voices, “Shadow and Flame” has a midsection that carpet bombs the song’s entire appeal with its horribly lame, over-poppy nature. Elsewhere, the deflation of the excitement built up from the great opener made “Devoured by Hatred” all the more irritating in its nondescript nature, as it can’t quite figure out how to do melo-death right and suffers for it. It’s not heavy enough to succeed on that, and it isn’t melodic enough to succeed in a way akin to Mors Principium Est. Instead it just occupies the mind, failing to offend or captivate. “Tormentor of the Weak” seems to hit all of the right notes when it’s playing, but once it ends the song fades into the hazy part of my memory where things like what I made for dinner three Wednesdays ago are kept. As for the production, it’s nice, not brickwalled, and balances each instrument nicely. It’s not a standout production job, but it’s good.

Illusions Dead are a new band that has a huge amount of potential and Celestial Decadence sounds like they’re finding their own niche, and once they become more comfortable in their own skin and more adept songwriters within it, they’ll be releasing stuff that’s going to turn a lot of heads. Until then, they’ve given us what will easily be in the top ten of 2016’s melo-death tracks, along with a couple of other good tunes. The rating doesn’t scream for this to be checked out, but that doesn’t mean Celestial Decadence isn’t worth hearing. If anything, melo-death fans should listen to this at least once to hear a cool take on the style that just might produce something great in the future.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Self Released
Websites: illusionsdead.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/illusionsdead
Releases Worldwide: February 8th, 2016

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  • The embedded track sounds great! Shame if it’s not kept up across the record, but I will check it out anyway.

    Nice to see Intestine Baalism get a reference btw, that band rules

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      It’s a killer tune. Really sets the bar high for the record as an opener, which turned out to be a tad unfortunate.

      • Correct track placement – a fine art that takes many successful albums to truly master.

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          That it does. Correct track placement also helped make Reign in Blood one of the few perfect records in existence IMO.

        • All those (non-doom) bands starting albums with a 10+ minute opening track, or an instrumental that doesn’t actually build up to the next track need to learn more about this art.

        • Blueberry Balls

          I have learned that track 2 on most discs tends to be the strongest. If you really dig through heaps of metal releases, you’ll be surprised. Actually, indie and other stuff seems to follow this unwritten rule too!

          • Gaëtan Baratin

            Eon Blue Apocalypse?

  • I dunno the embedded track reminds me of Sextrash, and I’d rather just listen to Sextrash.

  • Hammersmith

    This cover is pure Dark Souls.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      The big question is whether to use a Transient Curse trying to kill the ghost or just run and hope for the best.

      • Hammersmith

        Definitely run and hope for the best, grab all the items you can before you get killed.

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          And make sure to die in a convenient spot where you can pick up all your souls again.

      • Pull out a cursed weapon, twat the fucker, grab all the things at your leisure, and then get killed by a Mimic. Fucking Mimics.

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          I took to just punching the chest and whipping out a weapon if it started growing legs and teeth. Worked well most of the time, surprisingly.

  • Luke_22

    I got excited with some of the namedropping, especially Anata and Mors Principium Est. Shame it doesn’t live up.

    • Blueberry Balls

      Man, I miss the Anata.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      This song does, but the rest either come really close or more often don’t.

  • Wilhelm

    It’s like Immolation meets Dawn meets Immortal. Can’t hear much Insomnium, but I really like it. I’m hoping 2016 keeps bringing us some interesting melodic death and black metal; the scene needs a boost in quality.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Well, we’re getting new Amon Amarth at the very least, so there’s one good melo-death record.

      • Wilhelm

        I’m so tired of Amon Amarth’s formulaic compositions. Very overrated band imo

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Nice artwork, and that tune is pretty solid.
    First lyric video I’ve noticed in a while … You know how we have the Loudness Wars, can we please open a new Lyric Video front?

  • Guillotine of Papal Crowns

    *Sulphur Aeon appears in the review…*
    -OMG, OMG, OMG!!!!
    *Plays the embedded song*
    -Not bad, but THROUGHOUT THE WORLDS, FOR HE IS THE GATE!

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    I get that melo-death seems like a pejorative, because a lot of the genre sucks. Modern death metal is a thoroughly useless term though, because it suggests nothing but “this is death metal made sometime after 1997” or that it’s clinical and polished. Sulphur Aeon is very much melo-death but they have an original (and in my opinion the best) take on the genre. SA is what melo-death should be basically: death metal focused on melodies. It’s death metal built around centerpiece consonant melodies, or melodic death metal. As for these guys, all of their influences were melo-death but Gorgoroth in their presskit so that seems to be reason enough, besides the fact that they sound like melo-death, but not terrible melo-death. As for the overly happy thing, that was part of the intro of this review. That’s why melo-death is a hard genre to get right, and why one song here really bothered me with an overtly poppy bit in the middle.