Photo Credit: Lindsey Byrnes
The fifth full-length album by electronic music producer and DJ Nicholas Daniel Miller – known professionally as Illenium – opens with “Starfall,” an all-synth electronic instrumental. This is hardly the curtain-raiser a listener might expect if they choose to look ahead to the sixteen-song track listing, to see that upcoming cuts include collaborations with rock artists like Avril Lavinge and All Time Low. Yet, this self-titled release is overall definitely consistent if nothing else.
And there is quite a bit “else,” although many of the other collaborators who appear on ILLENIUM are a bit closer to the producer’s synth-pop wheelhouse, this would include Teddy Swims, who provides lead vocals for the heartfelt “All that Really Matters,” as well as up-and-coming New York City artist MAX, who sings on “Worst Day,” another very modern-sounding offering with an echo-y bass (in accordance with current trends). However, it’s the music on the album which generally tends to speak the loudest, particularly on “I Want You 2 (Stay),” a classic ’90s style dance track featuring only minimum vocals (including a vocal sample from “Stay” by Rihanna), but exactly the right amount necessary.
Illenium’s collaborations with rock artists on the album are all ambitious although end results are somewhat mixed. The aforementioned Avril Lavinge appears on “Eyes Wide Shut,” a track that also includes blink-182 drummer Travis Barker (but seriously – what records isn’t that guy on these days?). Being (arguably) the most prolific guests here, their appearance comes off a bit more like a walk-on than a measurable contribution, and the track is accordingly just average.
By contrast, “Shivering” featuring the Canadian hard rock band Spirtbox boasts at least a bit more character, combining a street-level type hook, scream-growl metal vocals as well as being umbrellaed by the grandiose production which is present through the whole album. The album winds down with “Nothing Ever After,” a collaboration with yet another rock band, Scranton, Pennsylvania heavy metallers Motionless in White, although the track sounds a bit similar to Linkin Park and that category of early 2000s rockers. Indeed, there’s not much of ILLENIUM which won’t sound at least somewhat familiar, although in most cases the electronic producer and his small army of musical cronies find at least some fresh angle in everything they do. For example, “From the Ashes” uses a theme that has been employed endlessly (i.e. “rising from the ashes”) but strong vocals from Skylar Grey give the track distinction.
“Luv Me a Little” is a solid closer, featuring vocals by Nina Nesbitt, a fitting summation of the strong use of female singers throughout the album. But will listeners love the whole of ILLENIUM just a little or a lot? The appearances of the alternative rockers are fleeting so fans of that genre probably won’t be drawn in any great numbers, and metalheads can choose from enough releases which don’t alternate with dance-pop. However, Illenium proves himself to be quite an ambitious and versatile artist and definitely possesses the ability to take apparently mismatched ingredients and get them to blend seamlessly, in the end creating an album tailor-made for a modern pop-listening audience.
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