I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Genre: Melodic Power Metal
Tracks: 10 / Run Time: 44:55
They Come From a Land Down Under...
I have to give the power-metallers in Ilium credit for their excellent timing. The same week that they contacted me about reviewing their new release Carcinogeist, my job assigned me to work-from-home duty due to the Coronavirus outbreak—which gave me a lot more time to listen to music. As it turns out, many of Ilium's lyrics deal with animal rights and the effect of man on the Earth's environment, all of which seems quite timely (and a bit eerie!) given our current situation.
Ilium (which Google tells me is "the large broad bone forming the upper part of each half of the pelvis," for you trivia hounds) was a new name to me, but a bit of research revealed that they hail from Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia, and they've been around since 2002. Carcinogeist is their eighth (!) full length release, with a couple of EP's in between for good measure. (Yeah, yeah, I know... where have I been, right?)
Ilium's mainstay members are apparently the guitar team of Jason Hodges and Adam Smith, with each of their releases featuring a different cast of guest drummers and vocalists. American singer Lance King of Pyramaze, Balance of Power, and Avian fame performed on Ilium's 2015 release, My Misanthropia, but the current lineup is an all-Aussie affair, filled out by vocalist "Lord Tim" and drummer Tim Yatras, whose resumes include stints in such Down Under metal acts as Dungeon, Blackened Angel, and Lord. Together this foursome has cranked out a tight, impressively produced set of songs with just the right balance of air-guitar-able melodies and that all important, head-bang-able heavy metal crunch.
Carcinogeist's album cover looks more like a death metal release, but the band immediately lights the melodic-metal fuse with the high-speed opening track "Imbecylum," which is planted firmly in the German power-metal tradition of Keeper-era Helloween and vintage Gamma Ray. I'm not overly familiar with vocalist Lord Tim—I think I *may* have heard an album by Dungeon many years ago—but his delivery is straight out of the Michael Kiske/Kai Hansen/Ralf Scheepers playbook, and fits this material perfectly. The title track is next, chugging along with a razor-edged guitar bite that adds a nice layer of speed-metal nastiness. "Anachronista" (an apparent sci-fi/fantasy tale about a time traveller) is a satisfying melodic metal cut with some nice keyboard work by Adam Smith. "Haunted By the Ghost of Me" and "Messiah For the Broken" continue in the melodic-but-heavy vein, then Ilium gets seriously spooky on the seven-minute mini-epic "Harlequin Tree," which is my favorite cut on the album so far. I hear quite a bit of Iced Earth's sinister, horror-movie influence on this track.
Vintage Iron Maiden comes to mind during the guitar dueling of "The Serpent Maligned," and though I'm not sure what the oddly-titled "Uncle Rupert's Puppet Show" is about, it's one of the heavier tracks on the album, with plenty of atmosphere and hooks."Question Air" and "Vigilante Vagrant" finish out the album on a satisfactory all-guns-blazing note.
But Wait, There's More!
In addition to Carcinogeist, Ilium was kind enough to send a copy of their 2019 EP Enviro-Metal, which was recorded by the same lineup as the album. Enviro-Metal's six tracks provide more of the same intense, melodic, shreddy goodness heard on Carcinogeist, with lyrics focusing on the band's message of animal rights awareness, as evidenced by song titles like "Golden Toad," "Greenpeace," and "American Crocodle."
The EP is capped off by a surprisingly bad-ass, heavy-metalized cover of Split Enz's new-wave oldie "I Got You," which was a massive hit in Oz back in the day; I also remember it fondly from the early days of MTV in the U.S. An excellent, unexpected choice for a cover, fellas!
"I Got You" (Split Enz cover)
Summing It Up
I've been out of the power-metal loop for a while, but I think I can safely recommend Ilium to fans of the aforementioned Helloween, Gamma Ray, and Iced Earth, as well as other melodic-but-still-heavy heroes like Primal Fear, Hibria (anyone remember them besides me?), Firewind, Blind Guardian and HammerFall. These guys are the real deal, and I'm glad they sought me out because this is just the kind of heavy metal sunshine I needed during my work-imposed quarantine. Thanks, guys.
If you're interested in checking these guys out, the band is offering a digital bundle of Carcinogeist and the bonus Enviro-Metal EP via their Bandcamp page. If you're going to pick up the album, you can't go wrong adding this EP to the package.
© 2020 Keith Abt