|Posted by Brandon "B-Mac" McCarthy on September 3, 2014 at 11:00 AM|
A rising trend in heavy metal over the past few years is that more and more bands are being fronted by women. Not only do female vocalists bring powerful voices to their band, but also possess incredible charisma any frontman would want regardless of gender. Hailing from New Mexico, one group has a frontwoman that gives them a soft touch to the death metal sound. That group is Illumina A.D. This band has an excellent twin guitar attack from Alex Bane and Kelsey White, who are seemingly influenced by old school metal acts like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Bassist Robson Guy and drummer Justin Cavis bring the funk and progressive side to the band’s sound. Fronted by vocalists Jeska and Otto Von Rado, these two singers act as musical foils to one another, combining death metal (Rado) with classic rock, blues and jazz (Jeska). By bringing all of these styles together, this band has created something exciting in a genre that is looking for new sounds and mash-ups to spark new interest in heavy metal. They have just released their first E.P. called “Tapestry of Lies”; being a fan of groups similar to them, i.e. Amaranthe, I was incredibly eager for this piece.
1. “Arsenic & Old Lace” – With Jeska’s soft vocals in the background, the opening track begins with an explosive twin guitar rhythm that follows with a drum groove. During the verses, Otto Von Rado belts out with a ferocity that compliments the tempo of the track. When the chorus kicks in, Jeska sings in a lighter tone that contrasts with the song, but it works to her advantage as she sounds like a combination of Grace Slick and Amy Lee. One element that I like about the vocals in this band is how Rado and Jeska complement each other; one is violent and hard while the other is soft and striking. Guitarist Kelsey White goes into a solo that is lightening fast and shreds in a subtle approach, not too complex but not easy. An exceptional way to kick off the record.
2. “Bleed” – Alex Bane kicks it into high gear with a machine gun rhythm on guitar. After a few licks, bassist Robson Guy and drummer Justin Cavis come in with a funky groove that adds a new, versatile element to the overall sound. As soon as Otto Von Rado comes in, he brings such ferociousness to his voice that it’s both fearsome and powerful. Jeska then starts to sing that is more accessible than Otto; she comes off like an Angel while Otto sounds like a demon on speed. Kelsey White brings two solos that are old school sounding, as if he was channeling Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy and Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden. Dubbed as the first single of the album, “Bleed” is truly a sinister song that will strike fear and delight into the fans. This track, from my perspective, can serve as their signature song.
Check out "Bleed" music video:
“Land of Entrapment” – This next song represents a total departure from the last 2 tracks. While “Arsenic & Old Lace” and “Bleed” were songs that are fast-paced and unrelenting, “Land of Entrapment” slows things down a bit, . Jeska takes over most of the song as the main singer, while Otto Van Rado backs her up. By the sound alone, the song is a like a cross between Evanescence and Amaranthe. Alex Bane provides a melody that’s smooth and has a nice tinge to it. Even the solo presented by Kelsey White is melodious, but still quick enough to come off like Eddie Van Halen with the tapping technique. It is nice to hear bands try to experiment a little on an E.P. because it gives them a chance to showcase their versatility as musicians. Truly, this song is my favorite.
4. “Tapestry of Lies” – Going fast-paced again, this song is a perfect way to cap off a debut E.P. Influenced by prog metal veteran Mike Portnoy, drummer Justin Cavis shows off his aggressive, pseudo-classical style with intricate, powerful drum fills. Jeska once again at the helm of the Illumina ship as the primary vocalist. Her voice sounds a little like blues legend Etta James, belting out all the pain into something healthy and positive. Otto Van Rado brings the “death” in death metal with his dominant screaming. The double axe attack by Kelsey White and Alex Bane is stellar and vicious, combining the styles of thrash metal and classic metal. Alex Bane’s solo shows technical precision, showcasing his talent and proving that he is a virtuoso on the axe. A perfect closing song to an outstanding record.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, I was thrilled to listen to this album and find out just how good they are. And verdict is…they are unbelievable! With the dual vocalists playing off each other in different styles, Illumina are certainly a band to keep an eye and ear out for in the future. What I liked about the album was how each track was different from the previous one. For example, after the fast-paced “Bleed,” they go into a more subtle, melodic approach with “Land of Entrapment” without losing any of their metal substance. The guitar duo of Alex Bane and Kelsey White is outstanding, with Alex providing incredible grooves and Kelsey bestowing stellar solos. They have a great progressive sound coming from drummer Justin Cavis and Robson Guy on bass. Overall, it’s an outstanding debut from an outstanding young band. Whoever knew that death metal can sound so haunting yet so beautiful. I look forward to seeing them when they decide to come to Southern California. Until then, this album will get me ready for them. To Illumina, I salute you. Horns up!!! 10/10.
Jeska - Clean vocals
Otton Von Rado - Unclean vocals
Alex Bane - Lead guitar
Kelsey White - Rhythm guitar
Robson Guy - Bass guitar
Justin Cavis - Drums
Live concert picture. Courtesy of Facebook.