The minute I heard Natalia Samofalova sing, I immediately felt like I was twelve years old and Evanescence was back on heavy rotation at MuchMusic. To the many who HATE Evanescence that may come off as an insult, but like Amy Lee, Samofalova is a very talented singer with a penchant for matching bellowing vocal performances with lyrical themes of loneliness, death, and eternal sadness. If you’re really into this stuff or are a moody teenager who is just discovering how small you are in this universe of ours then Venice May’s Illusion Is Inevitable will strike a nerve. If you are neither of these things like me then the album’s bloated 60-minute running time will start to grate and will have you clamouring for the most upbeat reggae album you can get your hands on.
The fact is Venice May are an incredible group of musicians who certainly know how to create a mood! I would never take that away from them. The opener “A Mouse And A Snake” sets the scene perfectly. The way guitarist Vincent Bedfert’s harmonic intro transitions into Samofalova’s melancholic delivery is magical and conjures dark familiarity. This is probably the band’s greatest trick. Their music has a special way of making you aware of your mortality and how insignificant your choices ultimately are. “Whoa, what a fucking downer!” you might say and at times during your listen and you would be right but there is something almost cathartic about it too. Illusion Is Inevitable above all else expertly portrays what it truly means to be depressed. Yes, it’s miserable to be unable to get out of that hole you’ve dug for yourself, but there is also something oddly comforting about it at the same time.
While the whole band is responsible for this atmosphere to me it’s Samofalova that makes it all palatable. I know I’ve been really championing her in this review but MY GOD what a voice she has! Not only does she has a draw dropping vocal range but she is entirely believable. You just KNOW that she’s been through some shit. This is reflected in her poetic lyrics that for the most part work separately from the music. It’s difficult to make out the words, but I highly recommend looking at the lyric sheet because you’ll be treated to little chestnuts like: “There is not enough spit in my mouth/To hate you like you deserve.”
The one problem with their approach to songwriting is that it is utterly exhausting! There is very little diversity. Once you heard the opening track and you find yourself in that emotional black hole there is NO getting out! Although the themes and messages slightly differ from song to song, the structure and instrumentation rarely ever does. This might be excusable if the whole thing wasn’t AN HOUR LONG! Even worse is that the songs themselves are in desperate need of trimming. Almost every song ends with a long-winded outro, which loses more and more impact as it goes along.
That said, if you are a fan of this style or have masochistic side then you will probably love Illusion Is Inevitable. Personally, I think with some editing and more variety in songwriting the band could have an album that fully utilizes the talents they most certainly have. I’m not saying to quit being so damn depressing but to maybe explore different facets of their established sound. I wouldn’t want them to end up a nostalgic footnote like Evanescence.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy