Following up from the diverse sounds of their debut album "Radiant Memory," Process of Illumination presents its ambitious and epic second album "The Broken." While staying true to the carefully balanced mixture of progressive rock, headbanging metal, and symphonic hooks that characterized "Radiant Memory," Process of Illumination ventures further into the breach with more intricate passages, increased interplay between the various instruments, and an overall more emotive experience in listening to the album from start to finish.
The album’s title track, “The Broken,” fires the album off on all cylinders with a heavy drum count-in right into a catchy 12/8 synth riff. This track earns its place as the namesake of the album by serving as a lively overture that highlights many of the musical themes heard throughout the album. From choral melodies and syncopated orchestral passages in odd meter to exciting unison riffs and charismatic drum fills, “The Broken” prepares the listener for the multifaceted musical road ahead.
“Threshold” was the first song written for the album and always a staple for a Process of Illumination live show. A pulsing synth riff serves as the centerpiece for a large part of the song, with the other instruments adding flavors of syncopation and harmony. While it is one of the shortest songs on the record, “Threshold” offers a variety of choices in instrumentation: from ‘70s-era organ riffs to bombastic grand piano arpeggios before concluding with one of the most metal-inspired passages on the album.
A far cry from the heavy metal that characterized the first two tracks, the opening bars of “Calling Horizon” hearken to a fireside ensemble consisting of acoustic guitar and violin, two instruments previously unheard on other songs in Process of Illumination’s discography. While the violin’s melody carries a relaxing mood throughout the song’s introduction, melodic bass lines and drums begin to fill out the song before it becomes a joyous organ-rock jam with call-and-response solos that give each instrument a chance to shine. The ending returns to the original mellow atmosphere with an emotive guitar solo and pensive violin melody.
“Paper Cranes,” the shortest track on the album, vamps a piano riff through the majority of the track over which an atmospheric pad, tom fills, and an intricate bass melody add to the overall somber mood. Each new verse brings changes that increasingly build to a climax in which the guitar highlights the initial piano melody while strings fill out the space and the rhythm section adds final momentum to the track. “Paper Cranes” is then punctuated with a series of haunting pad chords that set the tone for the following track.
“A Saga in Shorthand” begins with a hushed bell lead tinkering out a mysterious melody that is brashly interrupted by blasts of guitar, bass, and drums. The track experiments with different moods ranging from in-your-face guitar metal riffage, to a subdued synth solo section, to a brooding but heavy post-solo section with kinetic drum breaks and accents. The track bows out with a callback to the original melody before ending in a whisper.
With its peaceful piano opening evolving slowly into a driving symphonic guitar lead section, “Reawaken” lives up to its namesake of rousing from a peaceful dream to greet a radiant morning sky. The track features diverse layers of synth arpeggios, syncopated acoustic guitar, grand piano, and various percussion to support colorful bass and guitar solos before concluding with a moving reprisal of the track’s main theme in symphonic form.
A retro-sounding synth arpeggio and catchy hi-hat drum beat immediately grab the listener’s attention in “Flight,” with a choir pad taking a back seat to a fuzzy bass lead that teases the track’s main riff. The guitar and synth play off of each other before the band launches into a power metal chorus complete with a cathedral organ, a rapid synth line, and plenty of double bass. A piano waltz serves as a brief interlude before the bass guitar returns with a dirty spidery riff off of which a haunting piano, an ambient guitar, and a creeping drum pattern build to a crescendo punctuated by a screaming synth lead. The band jams along with a technical synth riff on either side of a keyboard solo before a volley of percussive blasts lead the song to a reprisal of its heavy chorus and a big rock ending.
“Valiant”, Process of Illumination’s first song over ten minutes, begins with a delicate piano line before a blast of power chords, strings, and crash cymbals kick the track into high gear. With a bell lead taking the melody for a laid-back verse to a symphonic pre-chorus and a bass-driven chorus, various instruments get their place to shine in this track. A spooky and playfully heavy middle section gives way to a snarling guitar solo and full organ chords, seeing Process of Illumination at perhaps its most bombastic in the album. The song features another beautiful and pensive violin melody over a soft pad and piano before concluding with a triumphant chorus.
The final track of the album, “Knowledge,” is a fourteen-minute epic broken into five parts. The first part, “Etched in Gold,” features a somber piano intro before the full band ushers in the main theme. Various liberties are taken with meter and accents before the second part begins: “Mosaic.” This phase of the song builds from a cautious guitar and piano passage into a percussive jam featuring bass leads and a tremolo guitar solo. “Master of Two Worlds,” the third part of the suite, iterates between a heavy power-chord riff and a melodic passage that uses all registers of the piano. It concludes with arguably one of the most emotive sections of the album with piano, strings, guitar, and bass coming together to form an evocative melody underlaid by powerfully kinetic and varied drums parts. “Answered by Echoes,” the song’s penultimate section, takes a moment to breathe with a pensive piano melody supported by distant snare, bass drum, synthesizer, and echoing guitar before opening up into a cathedral-like melody beautifully accented by choir patch and bass. This section builds to the part, “The Road Home,” introduced with a funky syncopated drum beat with organ and bass joining the party, and finishing with a rapid keyboard solo into a reprisal of the themes that began this monumental track. Knowledge finishes with an outro, ending The Broken on a final callback to the main melody, completing the opus.
With a running time of over seventy minutes, "The Broken" sees Process of Illumination reaching new emotive and technical heights in a cohesive and colorful work that highlights their propensity to blend rock and metal with colorful soundscapes and unique instrumentation.
released September 27, 2019
The members of Process of Illumination would like to thank those who supported us in both the making of this album and in the various experiences along the way.
For the recording, mixing, mastering, and production of this album, we sincerely thank J.R. Paredes of Satellite Music Group. For the album artwork, we thank Cameron Bruns and Thanh Thanh Truong. For the photography contained in the album artwork, we thank Dailey Hubbard. We would also like to thank the numerous venues in which we’ve had the privilege of playing our music live, and for the helpful and knowledgeable staff of these venues. And for the wide array of bands we’ve shared the stage with, thank you for the opportunities you’ve presented us.
We humbly thank our friends and family for the love and support they have given us throughout our journey. We truly could not have made it here without you.
KC Cheek - Guitars
Robert Schlembach - Drums, percussion
Erik Schow - Bass guitar
Aaron Smith - Keyboards