Dark Horizons by IlluminaeRelease date: February 12, 2021
Label: Immrama Records
Illuminae is one of the new projects launched by Karnataka’s Ian Jones and Caamora’s Agnieszka Swita. Dark Horizons is the duo’s debut release this year from the Immrama label. This album has a storytelling aspect of nightmares brought to life that are quite disturbing for listeners who are embarking on this symphonic journey into the Celtic, Power, Progressive, Experimental, and heavier approach that they have unleashed.
And with help from Steve Hackett, Troy Donockley, Craig Blundell, and John Helliwell to name a few along with a mixer from the mind of Joe Gibb (Massive Attack, The Cure), Dark Horizons is like a movie that is finally brought to life. The six highlights on here will give you an insight of a dystopian nightmare that will send shivers down your spine.
‘The Lighthouse’ opens the album for the bells to toll, waves crashing, foghorns blowing into the distance, and thunder crashing in the middle of nowhere as mournful pianos along with Swita’s vocals travel towards parallel universes. Guitar riffs, drums filling intense arrangements, and the midsection strings sails into the sea of Doors for a powerful symphonic metal approach to Within Temptation.
‘Twice’ has this mournful organ introduction done in the styles of unsung Danish Prog legends Ache from their Green Man period. With Machin’s heavenly guitar textures and waltz arrangements, it is sung in the styles of The Rolling Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ while ‘Edge of Darkness’ tackles the subject of domestic abuse.
Swita really goes in heavy for this story as you feel that the victim is trying to run away from being abused or for the wolves to hunt for its prey. She is a survivor throughout this song as Blundell and Machin’s guitars guide her to the light with some complicated sequences. While they’re crying to the gods and evil keyboard sounds by Ian himself, ‘Heretics & Prophecy’ goes for the Jacques Brel-esque lyrical structure. With some intensive Celtic minor chords, it deals with the pain and suffering that this person had done to another, is going to pay for the piper for what they have done to them. And the damage they caused, is to bite the hand that feeds them.
Donockley’s pipes and low whistling adds enough temperature levels to increase the anger that the victim has gone through to finally open up the white elephant that has been inside this person’s closet. And once the elephant is released, all hell will be broken loose to reveal how much darker the secrets this person went through by lying and not telling the whole truth that they were part of this person’s big gigantic lie.
‘Black Angel’ transforms into a Celtic Symphonic Metal turned Electro trip-hop composition. Insane melodic time signatures with a pop orientated structure, it tackles with the issue on how to set things right with some lifting and heavy riff arrangements.
The closing title-track which clocks in at 11 minutes and 20 seconds, and sees Illuminae tipping their hat to Edenbridge’s ‘The Bonding’. At times it feels like an operatic suite by getting a first glimpse of a sun breaching through the dark, heavy clouds as it shows signs of a new beginning. You have Jones going through a moonlight sonata-esque piano section before Machin brings that final push to give way for a new chapter to cry out once more for the virtuosic heavens to come in.
Dark Horizons is an adventure that Illuminae have unleashed this year by giving us some sort of a 2D animated metal opera brought to life and bringing back the way the Disney Renaissance had given us between The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast from 1989 to 1991. The way that real good animated films used to be, not the pretentious boring CGI Frozen franchise. So let’s see what will Ian Jones and Agnieszka Swita have in store for us in the roaring ‘20s with Illuminae.