Shape of Despair - _Illusion's Play_
(Spinefarm, 2004)
by: Pedro Azevedo (8.5 out of 10)
It's never easy to come up with a suitable follow-up to a great album, and Shape of Despair's second effort _Angels of Distress_ was just that. Its successor, _Illusion's Play_, starts things off in typically laid back fashion with a lengthy instrumental intro, as if Shape of Despair are in no rush to prove anything to the listener. When second track "Still-motion" begins, the band utilizes a softer than usual mixture of clean-sung male and female vocals -- Pasi Koskinen (formerly of Amorphis) and Natalie Koskinen, respectively. (I have no idea as to whether the two are related.) The male/female vocal interplay remains tasteful and well done whenever it is used. Pasi's deep death vox finally surface after a few more minutes, with lead guitarist extraordinaire Tomi Ullgren (Rapture, Thy Serpent) providing an excellent emotional backdrop with his slow guitar lines. The track finishes with a long minimalist keyboard section, again displaying an unwillingness from the band to rush proceedings (though at nearly seven minutes in length, I tend to skip it).

"Entwined in Misery" resumes the album in typical Shape of Despair (nearly?) funeral doom style, and in fine form too. The music emanates a feeling of disillusionment and sorrow, but retains an exquisite beauty -- again mainly thanks to Ullgren's guitar work. Some of Jarno Salomaa's synths fail to convince me, but they do not significantly harm the music, and this turns out to be one of the best doom metal songs I've heard this year. Helped by acoustic guitar and much better synth work, the next track, "Curse Life", keeps things interesting. "Fragile Emptiness" and the title track finish the hour-long effort with aplomb in a similar vein.

Overall _Illusion's Play_ is a worthy follow-up to _Angels of Distress_, and although it may not cause as much of an impact, it should still satisfy fans of the band. _Illusion's Play_ helps prove once again that Finnish doom is still going strong, and that Shape of Despair are one of its greatest exponents.

Contact: http://www.shapeofdespair.tk

(article published 11/29/2004)


ALBUMS
10/19/2001 C Flaaten 8 Shape of Despair - Angels of Distress
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