This Polish troupe, consisting amongst others of Orion from BEHEMOTH, Daray from VADER, seem to be on the verge of breaking through to a larger audience. Symphonic Black Metal is as popular as ever, and while I certainly can't say I'm a big fan of the genre, there must be something about it that speaks to a lot of people. The fact that VESANIA can boast of featuring artists from Poland's two biggest musical exports shouldn't be an obstacle for the band's prowess either.
The cover art of "Distractive Killusions" portrays a sinister-looking jester mask sporting a twisted smile, giving me the impression of a nightmareish carnival. This theme is carried on through most of the album, for example with a demented laughter through parts of the opening track "Narrenschyff". The music itself is carried by some very fast and impressive drumming, courtesy of Daray, together with epic guitarwork and keyboards that don't sound entirely dissimilar to DIMMU BORGIR. Orion's growling vocals are nothing spectacular, but they work well enough against the sometimes theatrical music. This theatricality can be extremely bombastic and over the top at times, but coupled with the more melodic keyboard passages it avoids straying into the territory of downright self-parody.
On "Infinity Horizon" the both loved and hated clean vocals so common in Symphonic Black Metal bands makes a first appearance. Fortunately, these are of the somewhat subdued kind, don't appear often, and don't sound like they're trying to create some kind of Metal opera. However, this song more than all the others features some really misplaced keyboards that just turn out annoying. The next song, "Rage Of Reason" makes up for this blunder with an awesome opening, and this time the synths are used a lot more tastefully. The imagery of the infernal carnival is rekindled, burning with rage in every snarl uttered by the wicked jesters.
Then the drummer is allowed to flaunt his awesome skills again, until some more way too epic keyboards take over "Of Bitterness And Clarity" as well. EMPEROR might be able to get away with this kind of wankery, but VESANIA simply falls short of their genius. On "Hell Is For Children" they do everything right though, creating a creepy mood that would be mandatory if anyone sets up a Black Metal version of "The Phantom Of The Opera". The vocals also fits better on this song than anywhere else on the album, and every sentence is spat out full of bile and spite. The last track consists of a clock ticking frantically and the maddened jesters cackling as they disappear into the shadows of the blood-red theater curtain.
When it comes down to it, I found it very hard to give "Distractive Killusions" a proper rating. On one hand, fans of Symphonic Black Metal will probably love the bombastic grandeur and great musicianship, while on the other I can never imagine myself listening to this again, as it just seems too cheesy and over the top for me. There is no denying that this is a very good release for its genre, and especially the drumming is some of the best I've heard all year. Unfortunately the at times even silly keyboards end up ruining the experience for me, and thus a lot of the material becomes forgettable and trite. However, if bands like DIMMU BORGIR are your cup of tea, I see no reason to miss out on this.
(Online January 20, 2008)