Review: Art Of Illusion – X Marks The Spot
AOR Heaven (January 29th 2021)
Reviewer: David Pearce
Art of Illusion is the brainchild of songwriter Anders Rydholm from the group Grand Illusion and singer Lars Säfsund of Work of Art. Their first album ‘X Marks the Spot‘ is melodic rock inspired with Rydholm playing keyboard, bass and rhythm guitar and Säfsund providing both lead and backing vocals along with some keyboard work. Their wall of sound is rounded off by a roster of experienced lead guitarists, Jay Graydon, Muris Varajic, Kristian Larsen, Pelle Holmberg and Daniel Rydholm, drummer Frank Nilsson, background vocalist Per Svensson and steel guitar player Tony Paoletta.
The opening track ‘Wild and Free‘ starts off with a keyboard riff reminiscent of Chequered Love and Säfsund’s smooth vocals. It has a real 80s feel with a Europe influence as you might expect from a countryman steeped in the music of these rock giants. ‘Run‘ is an REO Speedwagon style AOR ballad with great guitar work that give the music a depth that makes it instantly appealing.
‘My Loveless Lullaby‘ is a very smooth ballad based on an Abba style tune given more of an edge by some really good guitar work. ‘Waltz for the Movies‘ is a Queen style romp with Säfsund making a good job of channelling Freddie Mercury and some superb use of the multi-layered vocals that epitomised the Queen sound. It is a delightful track that I enjoyed from start to finish.
‘4AM‘ is the first straightforward rock track, but even then it is a really smooth one. The vocals sound reminiscent of Joe Elliott and it would definitely have been at home on a late 80s Def Leppard album. ‘Go‘ finishes the first half of the album with a really effective call and response song that will go down a storm live once concerts finally restart.
‘Snakebite Charm‘ is a song that builds and builds towards a fist in the air chorus which shows that these guys can handle the heavier end of the rock canon. ‘Let the Games Begin‘ once again channels Queen, this time the track Innuendo, and you can tell that Rydholm and Säfsund have spent many hours listening to the group. There is a clear affection for their more theatrical approach and it definitely suits Art of Illusion.
‘A Culinary Detour‘ is not the title you would expect to find on a rock album, but it is their version of Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy with the same playfulness as they run through various Italian foods for no other reason, you suspect, than the fact that they sound good when sung! It’s just great fun and leaves you with a smile on your face. ‘Catch You if I Can‘ is a proper guitar driven track that is full of energy and life. You can tell that they had lots of fun recording this one. ‘Rampant Wildfire‘ once again ramps up the heavier rock sound to good effect and the song gathers pace, becoming a Whitesnake style track complete with David Coverdale vocals that works extremely well. The final track ‘Race against Time‘ is another ballad with a fantastic piano and violin accompaniment that just oozes class and finishes off the album on a real high.
This is a really enjoyable album that doesn’t try to rewrite the rule book because it doesn’t need to. With the combination of Rydholm and Säfsund who clearly understand each other perfectly as artists it works brilliantly on its own terms as an excellent rock album. It’s one you can play when you want something mellow but with a bit of a harder edge. ‘X Marks the Spot‘ indeed!