Year of Release: 2000
Label: Limb Music Prodcuts
Catalog Number: LMP 0009-021
Total Time: 55:52:00
Oratory are a progressive power metal band from Portugal that play a style of music that owes a lot to Rhapsody, Angra, and other melodic progressive metal outfits. What almost sets Oratory apart from others currently leading the pack is that the band has two vocalists, Marco Alves and Ana Lara. I say "almost sets apart" because any fan of Angra knows that ex-vocalist Andre Matos could hit high notes once thought only reserved for the so-called "fairer sex." But their being influenced by Angra goes deeper than that in that it touches upon the entire package - melody, rhythm, warmth, etc. Fortunately, this means that Oratory are blessed not with one, but two very capable singers. Of course, the male/female contrasting voices are really nothing new either, but I think it's rarer in progressive metal than in, say, regular rock and pop. Lara's voice is high and light, very nice...in the same range as Tracy Hitchings, though I like her voice more. Alves is mid-range, not unlike Fabio Leone or Andre Matos.
Illusion - Dimensions opens with the title track, a brief, atmospheric keyboard wash (António Silva) that gives way first to Middle Eastern sounding guitar (Miguel Gomes) and then the pulse pounding percussion (João Rodrigues) of "With Glory And Melody." It rarely lets up from that point on. "Fight For the Light" starts with a galloping guitar and bass crunch, which steps back for the verses. In the best tradition of Iron Maiden, though much more polished and smooth, the choruses are rousing and anthemic. Percussion is right up front on "Kingdom's Legacy," in that you can clearly hear Rodrigues' cymbal work during the, again rousing, choruses. The guitar crunch that drives much of the track, in concert with the percussion, seems both expected and quite good. Keys also get a chance to solo over the speed-demonized guitars.
"Metal Messenger" is the most by rote track here. Soaring vocals that peak at the end of the chorus, driving guitars and percussion, epic keyboard solo following by the big guitar solo. Such that if you were to play this for a prog metal fan, saying only it's a brand new track, you'd figure it for almost any of the bands they obviously drew influence from. "In The Sky" takes brings a little bit of Kansas into things on this balladic track - okay, maybe it's because there are occasional violin accents, here courtesy of Bruno Espinheira. In true ballad form, there's a piano, too, played by João Burstoff. But there's also a bit of Dream Theater here, too.
Like Rhapsody, Kamelot, and other purveyor of medieval heroic fantasy prog metal, Oratory uses similar images and themes. And yet, it seems to be lifting up the corner of this very heroic image to reveal the truth behind it, to point out that we cannot wait for a warrior-hero to come riding in to save us. That is romantic notion, and at the end of the day, it's up to us to fight. Of course, within the context of heroic fantasy, it still stays true, as you can imagine that the slightly cynical, realists among the village would express this view to the dreamers, the faithful. And just when you think you've sussed out the story, it throws you a curve. So while this seems one part medieval fantasy, the twist is that the warrior's race leaves the planet - yes, that's right, they're aliens. But, given the space photography that graces the booklet, perhaps it is mere allegory, as we have done in times past, giving stories and life to the shapes we see in the stars. There's a line in "Kingdom's Legacy," that sets that up: "Once upon a time / A story has been told / It recalls life itself. About dreams" So is what comes between it and "Life In Another Star" a flashback? Perhaps. "Life In Another Star" also seems to take us into the modern age, the age of SETI and OSETI (Optical Search For Extraterrestrial Life)*, as well as missions to Mars to collect samples, perhaps finding evidence of life. The planetary imagery here is mostly of Jupiter though - both the chief Roman god (to Greeks Zeus) and the largest planet in our solar system.**
"Choose Your Future," a track that seems triumphant despite its doomsaying lyrics as it seems to suggest that without conflict our world is doomed, and the next track "World Of Illusion" follows up with the objective voice asking, "is this what you want? A utopia?" Perhaps utopia isn't all it's cracked up to be. Interesting.
There is also a hidden bonus track that, while it remains unnamed on the sleeve, is "Oratory" from Last Prophecy, their debut EP. [Furthur research reveals that it wasn't their debut EP, the rest is true -ed. 9/13/09]
This is progressive power metal done well, even with its strong influences. It's an amazing debut. Hmm... with (at least) four other promising acts out of Portugal, will the country be 2001's Germany? Or Italy? Only time will tell.
[Read also Bobo's review; that both make nearly the same concluding comment is pure coincidence. -ed]
* SETI detects radio waves, OSETI detects bursts of laser light, both in search of what might be communications from other worlds in other planetary systems.
** There are two other planets that appear, one I believe is Mars, the other I'm not sure. Unfortunately, the inner booklet is in black and white - well, unfortunate for me for identification purposes. Of course, both could also be moons of Jupiter, which also appear on the cover, as seen from one of Jupiter's other moons, Europa. The moon in the foreground horizon of the album's cover appears to be Io, while the splotch of white to the left of Jupiter is probably Ganymede.
Illusion Dimensions (1:19) / With Glory And Melody (6:10) / Fight For The Light (4:03) / Kingdom:s Legacy (5:33) / Metal Messenger (4:21) / In The Sky (5:11) / Last Prophecy (0:16) / Life In Another Star (4:47) / Rising Land (4:37) / Choose Your Future (5:15) / World Of Illusion (5:25) / Galaxy (1:49) / Bonus: Oratory (8:59)
Ana Lara - vocals
Marco Alves - vocals
Miguel Gomes - guitars
Rui Santos - bass
Joao Rodrigues - drums
Antonio Silva - keyboards
Sarcastic Soul (1997)
Last Prophecy (ep) (1999)
Illusion - Dimensions (2000)
Beyond Earth (2002)
Interludium (ep) (2005)
Genre: Progressive-Power Metal