Determination. Dedication. Honor. They are virtues a band must possess in some measure if they want to endure. Yet, these virtues are seldom found today, with the endless turnover of bands in the music industry. If you ask Spoken, however, these words are not just virtues, but mantras. And it is not a coincidence that this band has found a new pinnacle with their new album, Illusion.
After parting ways with previous label home Tooth and Nail shortly after 2007’s self-titled LP, the band has been storing up emotion, building momentum for re-emergence. Now, with a brand new partnership with entertainment conglomerate eOne Entertainment, a new producer, a fresh sound, and a new lineup, Spoken is prepared to eclipse anything they have accomplished previously.
Illusion is an exercise in aggression and calculated fragility. Laced with testosterone, the album throws down with the elite of metal and hardcore in calculated moments of heaviness. But what makes this record distinctive is not its speedy riffage or it’s pounding beats, but it’s emotional candor. Several of the standout tracks, including the undeniable singles “Through it All” and “Take everything,” dabble more in modern rock than they do in direct assault.
“We wanted a record that both fans and musicians would appreciate,” explains frontman Matt Baird. “We spent so much time on it, rewriting and reworking over a period of years. This is the most fast, heavy, riffy stuff we have done. There are moments that might remind the listener of Slipknot or As I Lay Dying, but in the end we are a rock band that has really aggressive moments. This is more accessible as we have ever gone, as well as heavier than we have ever gone.”
Diversity is Baird’s forte, as he grafts beautiful choruses into the chaos, along with swooning melodies that could melt even the coldest hearts. The band enlisted emerging producer Jasen Rauch (Red), known for his adept songwriting, to elevate their sound. The results rival the heaviest of hitters in radio rock, and a complete album which will keep the listener engaged mentally and emotionally, from front to back.
Illusion is a concept with which most can relate, as it references disappointment, disappointment, and bitterness. Baird states, “The album title refers to the situations in life which are not what they seem. Sometimes we have expectations about circumstances or relationships which don’t play out the way we intend them too. Then, when you are affected negatively by the actions of another and the bubble bursts, how do you respond?”
Baird chooses his words carefully, with a strategy to move the mind of the listener toward perseverance and empathy. On “Through it All,” he reflects on the devastating tornado that tore through Joplin, Missouri not long ago: Through it all, we’ve been thrown in the fire. We’ve been lost in the flame – But we will rise from the ashes again. On the title track, Baird issues a challenge to all to let go of bitterness in favor of forgiveness: Surrender all your faith. Surrender all your dreams and forget the pain of yesterday. And on “More Than You Know” he professes his eternal thankfulness for his one true love: I was wrong and finally I realize we’re looking through different eyes. I’d give the world just to hold you tonight and finally I realize. When looking into your eyes you are much more – so much more than you know. Illusion is defined by the heart of a band that cares endlessly-for their fans, their music, and one another, sometimes to fault, but always in shocking degrees. It is obvious, if you examine he lyrics for even a moment, that this heart is what has kept them moving forward for the last decade and a half, plus.
Spoken has shared the stage with a formidable list of industry heavyweights, including Demon Hunter, Brian “Head” Welch, Family Force Five, and Red. Illusion will undoubtedly serve as a springboard for new and greater opportunities on the horizon. Fans of the band are well-versed in the charisma of Baird, as well as the sonic devastation that emanates from his supporting cast, and their live prowess has played a huge role in sustaining their momentum over the years.
Spoken is confident in this is the hour of their vindication. One must just listen to their new effort to come to similar conclusions. But despite the potential for new plateaus, Baird and his cohorts remain resolved to put motive above stats, honor above potential accolades.
“I do this because I love it. And for that reason I do whatever it takes to keep moving forward in it. I don’t want to be wondering, laying in bed some night, asking where I might have been on that given night. ‘Dedicated beyond reason’ has always been our philosophy and it has brought us through the storms to this point. I feel like I have been called to this from above, and this record is another evidence of that in my life. I can’t wait to see the impact it has, the people we will be able to bless in the process.”