From time to time, the RMR crew stumbled across tall tales told about the Estonian band Illumenium. An outfit chiefly famous for hawking their wares aggressively on windy street corners and in malls all around Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. But less so for outstanding musicianship and top-notch performance.
Their sales strategy admittedly stems from a desire to beat that vile capitalist commercialization through big corporations. And, as the lore goes, they’ll continue with their business strategy, regardless of legality and from the underground if necessary. It’s all about that time-worn stereotype that promoters, managers, producers, and their minions are all thieves, out to steal the musicians’ proceeds.
However, aggressively (and often illegally) peddling their CDs and merch, either by themselves or through their own promoters is one thing. The stories about destroyed hotel rooms, unpaid invoices, and wrecked backstage areas are quite another. And that left them without brownie points in much of the industry.
One could of course say that this is what rockstars do, right? Only, their news is almost never about that outstanding musical prowess of a world-famous band. And these guys are frankly lightyears away from that kind of fame.
But more to that later on.
Interestingly, they still have a following in Estonia and around the EU, we are told. You’ll even find a fan club on Facebook, mostly in German, with fawning posts about the wares the band offers. A lot of that content seems to be recycled and not really authentic, though. But hey, give them the benefit of the doubt, right?
The band morphed into a traveling outfit by 2012. Evil tongues state that this happened because the group lost the support of local promoters back home and thus had to search for greener pastures to ravage. They remained ‘on tour’ ever since, even if that – yet again – is a doubtful statement in itself. Their endeavor more sounds like a remnant of those age-old roadshows that play gigs whenever possible and sell their stuff for the remainder of their time. The good ol’ concept of a band of wandering musicians.
Once the band started the roadshow, they still went by the moniker Defrage. A name that changed into Illumenium by 2014 after the departure of some original band members. Since then, they became famous for their trading skills, a few live shows, and an endless progression of albums and singles.
In other words, the press they’re getting, and – indeed – their reputation is frankly so tainted, RMR never bothered to look into a band so full of controversy.
But that changed once the RMR crew got ahold of Gehenna, Illumenium‘s 2020 record edition1) of a whopping 67 minutes of airtime. And that piqued our interest to do a little research.
Now, if you look for original content that springs from limitless artistic loins, you’ll be disappointed. A lot of their stuff comes recycled, either directly from Defrage or from pieces they made later on. And that’s cheap, and never a good sales strategy.
That comes with digital marketing that’s frankly all over the place. When I fired up their website, a chat box popped up. Frankly, I got a kick out of this. Not because it’s such a good idea, much to the contrary. You see, the webpage – apart from a few snazzy photos and a playlist – is otherwise pretty much empty. But they boast a chat service that would make any customer service proud. There, that’s what a good band needs, right?
Their usage of digital streamers and webshops is equally spotty – at best. Bandcamp contains one piece only, Spotify a motley selection of – stuff. Other sales platforms like Amazon are as inconsistent as the rest of them. Boy, even the CD with their stuff on it was faulty. Yet another nail in that coffin on their way to musical gehenna. It’s hard to be a rebel, right Illumenium?
And what about the music? Their style probably best qualifies as some sort of gothically tainted doomy rock that comes with some Darkwave and misguided EDM. That they try to hit the metal train through those atrocious growls just made this metalhead’s steely teeth grind in dismay. To add insult to injury, all of that comes with an abysmal production, truly unimaginative and repetitive songwriting, and a mix and master that makes me want to commit violence.
You’ll find a few good riffs, hooks, and pretty snazzy solos, though. Little flashes of excellence that hint at a certain musical prowess. Only, all that potential goodness won’t really shine in that ocean of uniform and grey monotony.
Ultimately, Illumenium is not a band without promise. The talent certainly exists somewhere in that swamp of bad ideas and worse strategies. Perhaps they need to stop running down that one-way street of no return and find themselves a promoter with an iron fist. One that puts a tent around that unspeakable circus, installs a workable and decent business strategy, and injects some direction and purpose. That may, just may, send them on a pathway to real success.
Ed’s note: Somewhere around the beginning of August 2021, the band changed their identity yet again to California Condor. But – surprise – the business model didn’t change with it, nor did the music style. Oh, and if you think that things cannot get worse, try this.
|1.||A first and longer version appeared back in 2017, so I’m not sure what I am looking at.|