Review by: Dave Griffiths
Over the years I’ve heard people say a lot of negative things about death metal as a genre. They’ll listen to an album and say things like ‘there is no creativity to the music’ or ‘every song sounds the same.’ Of course you can defend the genre as much as you like but they just don’t listen – and that’s why it’s great to have albums like Illuminance to use as your argument.
Swiss band Virvum have been around since 2007 but have never delivered anything quite like this before. Listening to Illuminance really conjures up a ‘beauty and the beast’ feel. While the brilliant death growls of Bryan Berger remain strong throughout the entire album while the music behind him is some of the most ‘beautiful’ metal you are ever likely to hear… sounding like something you would expect to hear on a symphonic metal album instead of a death metal album.
The instrumental brilliance of Illuminance shines through early with Nic Gruhn and Groftoby Koelman’s guitar work on the opening track The Cypher Supreme taking this album to another realm completly. Even the slightly electronic opening to Earthwork again is swamped by the amazing wall of guitar sound which is then mixed brilliantly with the deep growls of a frontman at the top of his game.
That old argument of every track sounding the same on a death metal album is sent to the graveyard here by Virvum as each of their tracks have their own ‘characteristics’ that make them sound out. With it be the crescendo that the instrumental side of the track the album takes its name from, the more aggressive sounds of Ad Rigorem or the near flamenco sound that threatens to burst through on Tentacles Of The Sun there is always that one thing that makes each track on this album special.
The one thing that does shine through on Illuminance is the fact that Virvum is a band that thinks about the album as a whole rather than just taking it single-by-single. A track like I: A New Journey Awaits simply builds into the power delivered by the following track II: A Final Warming Shine: Ascension and Trespassing – a track which sees Virvum mix spoken word, clean vocals, death growls and their ‘beautiful’ instrumental all together and deliver the best track on the album.
Virvum are a band that should be proud of the work that they have done on Illuminance. This is an amazing album that really does herald a new sound in the death metal genre and I have to say that it is a new sound that I am very excited to hear more of.