January 15, 2021

The first item that needs pointing out that this Art Of Illusion is a melodic rock band from Sweden and not the Polish progressive metal of the same name that has been around for almost 20 years. The name of the Swedish band is a quite a clever play on the names of the previous bands of the two musicians who make up Art Of Illusion being the musician, songwriter and producer Anders Rydholm from Grand Illusion and singer Lars Säfsund from Work Of Art but it does have to be said that having two groups with the same name can be problematical so watch this space to see if there are any changes forthcoming.

X Marks The Spot is the band’s debut release and is an album of very finely crafted melodic metal which is very accessible with great songs and steeped in sheer class. Given the two musicians history then there is obviously a flavour of Grand Illusion and Work Of Art but there are also influences from Europe, Asia, H.E.A.T. and Giant plus vocal harmonies straight out of the Queen school of song writing. The Swedes seem to have perfected the art of ageless, smooth and radio friendly melodic rock with that special transatlantic sound that increases the popularity exponentially. Indeed, this is another of those classic albums that could have been recorded at any time in the last 40 years or so as it takes that sumptuous hair metal vibe from the ’80s and infuses it with all the modern recording techniques so that it pays homage to its melodic rock roots yet is not dated in any way. As is usual and to be expected in melodic rock the material is fully of catchy, up-beat melodies with plenty of hooks to keep you interested and the vocal harmonies are exceptional. Anders Rydholm plays keyboards, bass and rhythm guitar whilst Lars Säfsund supplies the vocals and some keyboards too. The rest of the musicians (and there are many) featured on the album do so as guests with guitarists Jay Graydon, Muris Varajic, Kristian Larsen, Pelle Holmberg and Daniel Rydholm with drums courtesy of Frank Nilsson, backing vocals from Per Svensson and steel guitar from Tony Paoletta. It will be interesting to see if the band remains as a project or if it will become a true touring group and and which musicians will be recruited but that is obviously a decision for another day.

X Marks The Spot is a rather refined melodic/AOR album from a most talented team of musicians and songwriters and is delivered with style and panache. The musicians also seem to be having a great time and there are a couple of very Queen inspired tracks of whimsy which are a sheer delight and you just have to listen to the rather mock operatic A Culinary Detour which is crazy homage to Italian cuisine and completely and utterly quite bonkers. There are the usual smouldering ballads and Journey type rockers and the hint of humour make this just a little different from the usual new melodic rock being delivered. Special praise must also be given to Lars Säfsund for his heartfelt and spectacular vocals but this should not come as a surprise as he is a fabulous and very much in demand vocalist.

This is a splendid debut and the band has also managed to supply that somewhat rare commodity, a melodic rock album with a difference!

X Marks The Spot track list

  1. Wild And Free (4:44)
  2. Run (4:49)
  3. My Loveless Lullaby (5:04)
  4. Waltz For The Movies (1:43)
  5. 4 am (4:27)
  6. Go (3:48)
  7. Snakebite Charm (2:22)
  8. Let The Games Begin (5:08)
  9.  A Culinary Detour (5:30)
  10. Catch You If I Can (4:56)
  11. Rampant Wildfire (4:42)
  12. Race Against Time (4:48)