Why it only seems like last year since I was slavering away about "Brand New World", the comeback album from Grand Illusion, saying "it might not be as individual as their earlier material, but it's rock straight out of the top drawer; an essential album for melodic rock fans." And that's because it was only last year. So, rather than six years between records, they've managed to get this one sorted in a mere 18 months. Good work, fellas.
This time around, the Swedish trio took themselves off to America, and recorded the album in Los Angeles, bringing in some weel kent faces to add to the songs. So, say hallo to Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth), Steve Lukather (Toto), Jay Graydon (Manhattan Transfer, Air Supply) and Tim Pierce (Rick Springfield). Anders Rydholm, Peter Sundell and Per Svensson then set about refining the songs they'd prepared, to the twelve tunes I've just finished listening to. And, I'm pleased to say, that the swift turnaround hasn't affected the quality, as this is an absolutely cracking release. Yes, it's more of the same, but when the same is as good as this, then who cares.
It's simply dripping in class, with a spot on mix of melody and pomp, allied to some great guitar riffs. That's when they're not getting their ballad on, as they do magnificently on 'Believe In Miracles' and 'So Faraway'. For me, the highlight is 'Gates Of Fire' which has an orchestral arrangement from arranger/conductor Paul Buckmaster (Elton John, David Bowie), and is utterly pomptastic. Elsewhere, the likes of 'Eyes Of Ice' and 'Through This War' hit the melodic bullseye with ease. Some of the guitar solos are also worthy of mention, and it's guesting Bosnian guitarist Muris Varajic who seems to do most damage.
It's a fantastic album, and one that every self respecting melodic rock fan needs in their collection.
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I have bought this album about a year ago now, and it is still the best album I have ever listened to... and I listen to a lot of music, and many different genres. The songs in this album are full of emotion and great melodies that will make you feel them.
The album starts with the epic 'Gates of Fire', followed by the catchy 'Better Believe It', and 'Prince Of Paupers', a fairytale song that will make you dream. The next song, 'So Faraway', covers a very classical theme in an exceptionally poetic way. 'St. Teresa's Love' is my favorite song of the album. It's oozing with emotion and excellent... or rather perfect from beginning to end. One thing I don't like that much about Grand Illusion is that at the end of each song, the singer starts singing in excessively high notes. But in some cases, like in 'St. Teresa's Love', the result is amazing. Also, this song treats the theme of true love in an original and romantic way, just like the song that follows: 'Through this war'. As I said earlier, almost all songs in this album have excellent melodies, but another one that particularly marked me was 'Believe In Miracles', and not to forget 'Winds Of Change', the song that concludes the album in a way that you will never forget.
Not everyone may appreciate this album as much as I did, but if it's not the best album ever, one thing is for certain: it is (at least) excellent AOR music. It's not flawless, but nothing ever is, and this is about as close to 'flawless' as music can get. So don't let Grand Illusion's lack of reputation around the world fool you: this album is a five out of five.
Sixth release from Swedish melodic metal outfit Grand Illusion yet I must admit my first taste and rather impressed I am too. Ice cool Scandinavian tones are littered throughout with some mind-blowing lush vocal arrangements from the dual vocal prong of Peter Sundell and Per Svensson (with the lyrics written by Arlene Matza-Jackson), whilst the bulk of the music is written, performed and produced by Anders Rydholm (keyboards, bass, rhythm guitars).
Throw into the mix guitar solos by Steve Lukather (Toto), Tim Pierce (Rick Springfield, Micheal Jackson, Phil Collins), Jay Graydon (Airplay, Manhattan Transfer, Air Supply), Muris Varajic (a Bosnian guitarist and a real find) and Robert Säll and the whole package is more or less complete, aside from some extremely well done orchestrations. This is a big sound for sure, with excellent arrangements and a great production.
Granted fans of the true metal might well guffaw at the melodic approach of Grand Illusion but those that appreciate well crafted and performed rock music will find an awful lot to enjoy on "Prince Of Paupers".
Highlights are plentiful but "Gates Of Fire", "Prince Of Paupers", "Eyes Of Ice" and "On And On" are amongst the pick of the bunch for me. Fans of the likes of Styx will get a big kick out of this, but then I hear some parallels in a more pompous way with fellow countrymen Nation in a lot of the big vocal arrangements. Fans of 1987 era Whitesnake will undoubtedly get something out of this - the sound though is always more European than American so keep that in mind.
Overall this makes me very keen to check out the back catalogue and its easily the best thing I have heard in a long time from AOR Heaven.
Melodic rock fans, add this to your shopping carts without delay.