Iluvatar - Iluvatar

Year of Release: 1993
Label: Kinesis
Catalog Number: KDCD 1008
Format: CD
Total Time: 55:47:00

Though we've reviewed more recent output (A Story Two Days Wide) by this Baltimore based band, I wanted to take a look back at where they started, and since I've been listening to "Eagle" all week, the time seemed ripe. Now, the observation that will come as immediately obvious, once vocalist Glenn McLaughlin starts singing, is how much he sounds like Phil Collins, put through a Jon Anderson filter. It wasn't really until listening to this again, that I saw just how true that was. And, yes, musically there are some hints at Genesis of the 80s without the pop trappings. And some passing hints at Marillion (some guitar parts of "Marionette")

Now, while McLaughlin sounds like Collins, he doesn't sing like Collins - in that he has a more lyrical way of phrasing things that owes more to Anderson than anything, and which gives "Eagle," for example, a very uplifting feel. This is quite a beautiful song, with some interesting guitar textures. If there's a drawback, is that often both the guitar and keys sound a bit hollow, owing more to production I think rather than performance. The seem to come up from under the mix, as if they are somewhere below the remaining instruments and keep circling up into and out of it.

"New Found Key" has that open road kind of feel to it, a mix of American Southern Rock (Allman Bros, say) and 90125 period Yes, there being the angular rhythms that Trevor Rabin used on that same album. What keeps this track jumping are the keys and percussion.

"Exodus" is deceivingly light given it's dark subject - a father trying to escape and save his child from becoming a victim of war, only to be stop by a child. Ironic. And no doubt hinting at the Holocaust, at least in some measure. One never knows, because kids have been used as soldiers probably forever, for one reason or another. And maybe that's the point, it isn't specific, because it one of those unfortunate truisms that transcends time. War has been part of the human psyche ever since?well, forever, again. Only we're able to do it on a much grander scale.

In fact, the album is more a concept album, as the theme of war is followed from the opening track, both literal and metaphorical. In other words, the three basic themes of literature - man against nature, man against man, and man against self - are touched upon, either simultaneously or at different points. Given that the Gulf War was still in recent memory (some might say still going, only the combat part has stopped), it's not surprising that this would form a backdrop to the album. (Two other albums reviewed at the same time as this also dealt with this theme - Toy Matinee's self-titled (and only) release and Threshold's Wounded Land).

I quite recommend this to fans of neo-prog, though prog purists might find the comparisons to be an indication that there's no originality. They'd be wrong, because what I hear are starting points, touchstones. One of the great bright spots in American progressive rock, even if they are following in an UK tradition.

Il?vatar (2:26) / In The Eye (10:01) / Eagle (6:38) / New Found Key (4:13) / Exodus (7:08) / Wait For The Call (4:37) / Dream Visage (7:00) / Marionette (7:19) / Emperor's New Clothes (7:05)

Gary Chambers - drums, percussion
Glenn McLaughlin - vocals, percussion, bass pedals
Dennis Mullin - guitars, bass pedals
Jim Rezek - keyboards
Mick Trimble - bass

Iluvatar (1993)
Children (1995)
Sideshow (1997)
A Story Two Days Wide (1999)

Genre: Neo Prog

Origin US

Added: March 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1587
Language: english


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