Illnath – Third Act In The Theatre Of Madness (2011) Album Review

It has been almost half a decade since Illnath released a new album, heck, how so much time has passed? Illnath in my youth used to be a band that I would gladly pick up their record to listen to it, and of course, enjoying it. It is not the typical black metal that you would find in Mayhem records, Gorgoroth records or Darkthrone records, but rather something that you would find in a Cradle of Filth record, Dimmu Borgir record and why not, a Naglfar record. So in other words, a more melodic approach of the black metal genre, with symphonic and gothic metal elements, and with this new record, we could even label them as death metal. Half a decade of inactivity might’ve put the band into a sensitive position. Like it or not, a period of inactivity could affect a band, and could put it out of shape for good but not all the time. For some bands, it could mark an explosion of creativity and also, it can turn out to be the key that lead them to success.

Illnath has been a band with few moments of glory. Other than this new record they delighted us with 2 more, Cast Into Fields Of Evil Pleasure released back in 2003 and Second Skin of Harlequin released in 2006. Both of them were intended to be parts of a trilogy. As a side note, they released 2 more demos (one at the beginning of their career and the other one in the middle of their inactivity period) and 2 EPs, Angelic Voices Calling released in 2001 (probably the best record they’ve ever done) and Lead The Way in 2011. So as you can see, not too much to brag about, and certainly not some records that would attract attention based on their names. Illnath is a band that has a special place though in the underground black metal scene. Think about it, they originated from Denmark which is the homeland of King Diamond and his early black metal project, Mercyful Fate (though labeling Mercyful Fate as black metal is way too much, since this band rather played a traditional style of heavy metal throughout all of their albums). But, of course, the place where the band members were born is not that important.

What does Illnath want to show us through this new record after 5 years of complete silence? Let me tell you, a different approach of black metal, this time, with a different playing style, featuring Peter Falk distancing himself from his old playing style. In their early records, the band made use of harsh male vocals but now, we can see that they try a different approach by incorporating a rather interesting singer Mona Beck. Peter Falk is the only original member remaining, the rest of the band was completely replaced. Heck, the drummer and the vocalist were even hired in the same year this record was released. I said that Mona Beck is a rather interesting choice, but why is that? Surely, seeing a woman as vocalist for a rather extreme metal band is a rarity. Of course, we have good old Sabina Classen (from Germany’s pioneer thrash metal band Holy Moses) or Angela Gossow (everybody should know her as Arch Enemy‘s frontwoman) and why not Alissa White-Gluz (from the melodic death metal band The Agonist). The first one is a legendary name, the other two are some rising prodigies, but Mona Beck? Rather a new comer in the metal realm. Or maybe not, but of course, I kept searching for information about her and I could not find a record history about her previous activity before joining Illnath so I suppose that either this is her first encounter with the metal realm or her most important project.

Like I said, their style now became hard to define. In the early days the black metal characteristics were evident, even now they can be recognized, but they somehow blended with other influences such as a traditional approach towards heavy metal, death metal defined especially by the way the vocalist sings, not entirely specific for a black metal band and some gothic metal elements as well. The symphonic metal elements are still there even from the beginning of this album in the first songThird Act.Peter Falk’s guitar playing became a little bit self-indulgent, presenting mostly classical shred in every track on this album.

The lyrical themes in this album, in my opinion, feature a lack of creativity. Like the previous albums, this one was intended to be a part of a trilogy (supposedly the end of the trilogy), however, certain lyrics such as “Lean back, enjoy the third act of Illnath!” kinda makes you think if the band took the job seriously or they were just messing around with the whole concept situation in this album. To be honest, I would’ve preferred it either way, be it a concept album (a very hard thing to do for every band) or a random one (the classical choice, the easiest one as well) but whatever choice they would’ve made, a sense of responsibility and seriousness should accompany that decision as well. From time to time, Peter fills our ears with pleasure giving us some pretty nice and well thought guitar solos, enough to make you forget the whole issue with the lyrics.

Mona Beck’s voice is not entirely out of common, even though we speak about a woman doing vocals for a supposed black metal band. Her style of singing is very similar with Angela Gossow’s or Alissa White Gluz style of singing, but with little differences as well. Mona Beck’s voice is much more clearer, a commendable thing in a way, but in another way, the album turns a little bit monotonous after several tracks, mainly because of her constant and never-changing vocal performance. If I am not mistaken she even does some clean vocals but they are rare and rather discarded, in other words unmemorable.

Talking about every track, one by one will be a pain in the ass, since the performance in this album is similar in every track, with very few changes that are worth mentioning. A good thing would’ve been to shorten the length of this album. For almost 50 minutes, this album is way too boring and forgettable. The focus in this album are the down picked guitars, groove elements and some melodic death metal performances that from time to time might seem a pleasure to the ears but the same formula is being used in almost every track. In tracks such as the 4th one Snake Of Eden even gets you tired. If I were to recommend some songs from this new Illanth’s Third Act In The Theatre Of Madness, I’d go with the introductory one, Third Act, Lead The Way, Tree Of Life And Death and lastly Vampiria.

Don’t think that I did this review out of hatred towards this new record or towards Illnath. As an overall, I do like Third Act In The Theatre Of Madness, but I could not discard the holes which are evident in this record. Illnath might’ve chose to approach this record differently and I believe that in one way they succeeded and on the other way, they failed. I hope that next time I won’t have to wait for another half a decade in order to listen such a half disappointing record. One might think that 5 years were more than enough to record a new album, and that album should be something out of ordinary, but in Illnath’s case, it really isn’t, it’s like time has stopped for them. I can’t help but miss Peter Falk’s old guitar work but I believe in Mona Beck’s potential as a vocalist, she has the skills necessary to pull out a good performance, maybe a little more attention to the lyrical content and everything would be just fine. There might be some problems with some shitty fan made comparisons between Mona Beck and the old Illnath vocalist Narrenschiff, if you’re curious about my opinion regarding this opinion conflict and why I gave such a high rating for this album (considered by other totally inferior) let me tell you this, Narrenschiff has left the band, his vocal performace might’ve been good, but we speak about two different vocalists here, two different people who weren’t born from the some mother unfortunately, either you stomach it or just stop listening to this band, because technically speaking, Mona Beck is not inferior, she just has her own original vocals, is it such a band thing to live in a world of diversity you fucking communists? I do like Narrenschiff for his former vocal works, but they guy stepped out of the band, so he is history, take it or leave it. Time won’t stop for this band because of fans that can’t think out of their own box for once, which brings shame to a band like Illnath that does not produce bad records.

A picture with the band members, from left to right Peter Falk (guitar, keyboards), Mona Beck (vocals) and Kenneth Frandsen (bass)

Overall Impression: 70/100