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The Art of Illusions by Dark Avenue


“Dance with me my darling,” the tall, dapper young man said as he elegantly grasped a soft, delicate hand and kissed it.  Leading his lady of choice onto the empty dance floor in the middle of a crowded ball room, the gentleman places his right hand on her waist and takes her other hand into his left.  As they stare deeply into each other’s eyes, the band begins to play and the couple starts to waltz across the dance floor.  Leading with his left foot, he grasps her firmly at the waist and spins her around, floating effortlessly across the dance floor.

By the first full spin across the dance floor, every set of eyes in the large ball room was fixed on the couple, some of them so intently watching it begins to make one wonder exactly what they are so mesmerized about.  Take a closer look at their feet.  Are they touching the ground or dancing on air?  If they’re dancing on air, how in the world are they doing it?  Nothing appears to look abnormal from this perspective so it must be real, right?

Now take a closer look at the back cover of this album.  A reflection of the same couple is seen dancing on an empty dance floor with every eye in the room watching them intently.  Once again they appear to be dancing on air only from this perspective the viewer sees their skin removed on their face revealing part of the skull.  Is the couple truly of this world or is the crowd staring at a couple of ghosts floating across the dance floor?  If they are ghosts, were they called to perform this special dance via the Dark Avenue special edition Ouija board?  They must be an illusion!

As Harry Houdini eloquently put it, “What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.”  Dark Avenue definitely took that statement to heart not only when they created their first full-length album Illusions but every visual aspect (show posters, band logos, album covers, etc.) of the band itself.  Join us as we unravel the mysteries of this musical and visual illusion that call themselves Dark Avenue.

The visual theme of illusions, magic, and ghosts goes far beyond the album cover.  Take a closer look at their band logo (on the left), a great example of a special edition Ouija board with a Dark Avenue flare to it.

Now take a look at their show posters, in particular the background images.  These images are taken from old show posters advertising some of the greatest magicians in the world including Harry Kellar and Howard Thurston.  Harry Kellar (1849-1922) was the first American born magician that gained worldwide celebrity status.  Called the “dean of magic” and “the most beloved magician in history”, Kellar had the largest and most elaborate state illusion show touring North America from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.  He is most known for a version of a levitation illusion in which one of his female stage assistants mysteriously rises up from a couch, floats across the stage into the audience and then disappears into thin air. The posters you see to the right illustrate the magician’s famous levitation illusion.

Another magician that frequently shows up in Dark Avenue show posters is Kellar’s magical successor Howard Thurston (1869-1936).   Known as the “King of Cards” and “The Man That Fooled Herrmann”, Thurston was best known for his masterful manipulation with playing cards and later for his grand illusions such as making a lion appear on stage or a Willys-Overland automobile disappear.  After a very successful vaudeville tour in Europe, Thurston gained enough capital to build an illusion show that he took around the world.  He was the most famous magician of his time, some argue even more famous than Harry Houdini.  The posters above show Thurston gazing through a skull as a spirit rises up from one of the eye sockets.  The original show poster is from 1915 and was printed as a lithograph.

From the album cover to the meaning of the songs themselves, Illusions allows the listener to choose their own adventure for interpreting the music.  Some of the songs on this album are referring to a specific subject matter while others are broad and open-ended.  Others are very deep.  As a result, one listener may think a song is talking about a specific subject matter where another may think it is more open-ended.  Each song takes each listener down different paths of interpretation.  In that sense each song on this album is an illusion – no concrete meaning or single perspective that defines them.  What the listener hears and the mental image they see, the mind believes.  As the mind believes, logic and emotions create a connection to the song.

For example, let’s take a look at the songs, “No Answers”, “God Made You Man”, and “Someday” from a few different perspectives – the author of this album review, the lead singer and main lyric writer for the band (Mario), and the person reading this album review (that would be YOU).  After listening to these songs, how do you interpret them?  Share your interpretations in a comment on this blog post.  More songs will be posted at a later date so be on the lookout for more perspectives.

“No Answers”
Mario – Growing up in a very Catholic family, life was very non-dramatic and strait-laced.  Answers to life’s touchy subjects (politics, sex, something that makes your question your religion, insert your favorite example here) were either sugar coated, completely false, or ignored.  Later on in life you find the real answer to the sticky question and realize that the people you looked up to and trusted lied to you in an effort to protect you from the world.

“God Made You Man”
Mario – This song is about how one traumatic event takes you to a dark place and changes your perspective on life and what you believe in.  More specifically, Mario was reminded of the struggle his grandfather went through with his Catholic faith after Mario’s grandmother passed away from a long battle with cancer.  Within months, his grandfather went from believing that God can fix everything if you believe hard enough to not wanting to believe in God at all.  While going through that traumatic event, his grandfather lost faith in everything.  Towards the end of his grandmother’s life, his grandpa blamed God for everything that was happening.  Eventually, his grandfather returned from his dark place and went back to believing that God can fix everything.

The Author of this album review – In your last moments of mortal life on this earth, everything you have ever done and said is running through your head.  Did you live life to the fullest?  Did you accomplish everything you wanted to do?  Did you love hard enough?  Are there any regrets you still have?  Are you satisfied enough with this life that you will die in peace and fulfilled or will you have nagging regrets?

Overall, this DJ is very impressed with this album, in particular with the running illusions theme.  Many hours had to have been spent paying attention to the order of the songs, creating the correct lead-ins to make the album flow seamlessly from start to finish, and picking out the perfect image for the album cover to illustrate the entire concept.  While countless hours were spent putting all the puzzle pieces together, the songwriting and the album’s theme were created very organically.  This means that none of the subject matters for each of the songs on this album were pre-planned.  In fact, the majority of the lyrics were not written until the day they were recorded in the studio.  As Mario listens to a song, he writes the lyrics to it as he sings it for the first time.  So, wherever the song takes his thoughts and emotions at that very moment is what he sings about.  Sometimes he will have an idea in mind that he wants to use, but the majority of the subject matter for the songs comes from what he is feeling at the moment they get recorded.  If the newly created lyrics have the emotion and the passion that the song needs, then it gets finalized.  If not, they continue to tweak the words until they fit the song.  This songwriting process makes for very interesting live shows and rehearsals as the rest of the band has no idea where Mario is going to go with things sometimes.  As a result, the rest of the band has to be spot on with that they are doing as well as pay close attention to each other while playing so things still sound cohesive.

Sonically speaking, Dark Avenue is certainly well on their way to perfecting their melodic rock and metal sound.  Not only have they grown musically from Seasons Change, they are branching out into other markets with Spanish versions of their songs such as “Una Ves Mas (Someday/One More Time)”.  Be on the lookout for a Spanish version of the entire album due out later this year.  While you wait, check out the music video for “Maybe Tomorrow” below and get more insite on Dark Avenue’s song writing process by listening to a recent interview by clicking here.