I’ll start by saying that American Illusion is not going to be popular with everyone, in fact the very reasons I think it’s a brilliant piece are the same reasons that some may criticise it… that’s ok. Music is a form of art, to be appreciated by those that understand it and deconstructed by those that don’t.
American Illusion flies in the face of what the “industry” tells us is great, it’s raw, it’s edgy and it speaks of hard work and ideals. An overarching theme lyrically is one of revolution, it’s a kind of 60’s ‘power to the people’ revolution, highlighting the inequality present in life. Again, some will find reason to be critical of this statement, but for me it reinforces a genuine quality of what could otherwise be yet another “let’s drink and womanise” hard rock offering. Not that I have anything against drink or women!
American Illusion is a collection of songs that have been written to be played live, there is a distinct live feel to the recording – the production gathers the sound into a smooth tight sound but allows the rawness that hard rock fans will appreciate. Venrez (singer Steven Berez) brings a classic rock front to the sound, his lower range vocal standing apart from the plethora of bands out today, he’s different and not ashamed of that fact.
Kicking off the album is the track Unforeseen, the track is pretty typical of what to expect from the rest of the album. With a driving rhythm section throughout, pushing forwards but never seemingly feeling the need to rush, this allows the dual guitar work to sit nicely over the top and gives a stable platform for the vocals.
Sanctity and Hot Air are up next, followed by my favourite on American Illusion, ‘Free Will’. Free Will feels like it has countless layers of interwoven guitars, but after repeated listens it’s just some pretty well crafted orchestration. This is something that Jason Womack, who writes most of the music appears to excel at, providing complex sounding mixes in a simple way.
The only question mark for me on American Illusion is the inclusion of “The Beat Goes On”, originally by Sonny & Cher. Venrez give it a decent makeover, but it throws a curveball into the mix in terms of style. I have the feeling that it works great live – the repeating riffs give ample room for some showmanship on all accounts.
The final track also veers from the relentless hard rock “normality” that creates the Venrez sound. ‘Temptress of the Moon’ leans heavily towards a more ‘bluesy prog’ feel, with a progression that leads into a space filled zone which ends the album. It’s a bold way to finish an album, and I’d quite like to hear Venrez focus more on this aspect of what they can do, they do it well.
In summary, it’s not going to be loved by everyone but I’d recommend this to anyone that has ever used the phrase “where is the real music nowadays”. Venrez are not a boy band, they’re not a music industry machine, they are a band that are growing the right way.