Australia's best export since Steve Irwin ("The Krawk Hunna") are back with their second album. I had some trouble listening to this one as I had such a high expectation after their brilliant debut, "Chronicles Of Dysphoria." At first, I was disappointed - I couldn't get into the album right away, and a flute had replaced the violin. But then, after a dozen or so spins, I began to see its potential to be a truly great release. The music is sometimes faster and heavier than "Chronicles Of Dysphoria", yet still melodic and classically influenced. The production sounds lucid and more straightforward, clearly bringing out the sound of each of the instruments, particularly the vocals. It is these vocals that will make you take hard notice from the first moment you hear them. They show a considerable gain in strength from "Chronicles Of Dysphoria", and throughout the album you'll find yourself so impressed that you'll hear the voice long after the album has finished.
This album reveals the voice to be more classical, as opposed to operatic. In fact, the vocals are so mesmerizing that you'll notice yourself thinking, "Enough instrumental, sing already!" The lead guitar solos that made "Chronicles Of Dysphoria" one of my all-time favourites are still present, but this time, a flute accompanies it instead of a violin. Although I prefer the violin, the flute is an adequate replacement.
My definite favourite is the 7+ minutes of musical bliss that is the title track. Here you will find the catchiest vocal lines, most inspiring lead guitar and flute solos, and probably the most awkward lyrical content ("through cognitive dysfunction aspirations stay utopian" - try saying that five times over!). Another great song is the Celtic/folkish/medieval music of "Abyss," that's topped off again by the beautiful vocals, and includes the best union of the lead guitar and flute out of the whole album. It's slow and melodic, it sounds like they're heading off into the sunset, hand-in-hand.
With "Chronicles Of Dysphoria," Shiralee inspired us with her music composition. With "An Illusion To The Temporary Real," she enchanted us with her voice. What's next, she will dazzle us with her keyboardry? Probably not. Nevertheless, this is a very solid follow-up to "Chronicles Of Dysphoria," although I doubt it will better it. Many will disagree, but listen for yourself and don't let the retarded album title put you off, it's only an illusion...to the permanent brilliance of CHALICE. (Online October 28, 2002)