Ilium [Melodic/Power]

The history of Ilium harks back to 1990, when 5 school friends, Jason Hodges (guitar), Mark Snedden (vocals), Jason Dohmen (drums), Troy McLellan (guitar) and Keith Jacobsen (bass), from the Newcastle (Lake Macquarie, NSW, Australia) suburbs of Barnsley and Edgeworth decided to form a band. Despite not being able to play their instruments at the time, the five began to rehearse in Jason “Jos” Dohmen’s garage on the way to becoming a working band.

The name Oracle was chosen as the band name at Jason Hodges’ suggestion and songwriting commenced soon afterward. With Keith leaving due to work commitments, the band employed the services of Eric Pedersen on the bass. Shortly afterward with the departure of McLellan, Kris Arendse filled his shoes.

The band continued to write and improve, though tensions between Arendse and Pedersen led to Kris’ firing (his lack of commitment being a major contributing factor). Kris was allowed to return briefly, but soon afterward both Pedersen and Arendse were gone. Both continued to remains friends of the band, as had Keith and Troy, but now the group were reduced to just the three core members.

Brian Smith had auditioned for the band, but did not continue. However he did assist the group in obtaining a new guitarist, his younger brother Adam Smith. It was obvious from the beginning that Adam was to be the perfect complement to the band and shortly after the first working line-up of Oracle was completed when PFJ bassist David Lewsham suggested his student Matthew Woodland.

This lineup commenced live performances in 1992, beginning with a successful show at King George’s Tavern in Islington. The group’s adventurous form of melodic, technical metal gained them a strong local reputation, but again tensions arising from commitments with time led to further line-up changes.

Both Smith and Woodland left the group after several months and were replaced by Sean Vittadello and Michael Noonan respectively (during this period, Kris Arendse also returned briefly on the bass). This line-up continued to take the band further. Before Michael had joined, the band trekked to Melbourne for their first professional recording, a version of “Half-Life” (incorrectly titled “Purgatory’s Hold”) for the Def Metal III compilation, the bass duties being handled by long-time band mentor Daryl Metcalfe.

Upon their return to Newcastle, Michael Noonan was recruited and the second working line-up of Oracle was created. After a while though, further tensions arose, leading to Sean’s departure, followed shortly by Mark and Jos. Michael and Jason were left to try and rebuild the band, recruiting drummer Aaron Flynn and bringing Adam Smith back into the fold, but it was not to be and the band eventually went their own separate ways.

Throughout the period that followed, all of the former members of Oracle remained friends in some capacity. Mark and Jason, who had been best friends since school, remained in close contact, as did Jason and Michael.

The period that followed was to prove difficult in many ways for some of the band’s former members. Jason Hodges began to write a book based up one of the band’s songs, “Black Abyss” and this was eventually published.

After a two year absence from the scene, Oracle reformed with Snedden, Arendse, Dohmen, Woodland and Hodges. This version was again short lived, with Dohmen opting out soon afterwards. The four remaining members continued but did not progress, Mark eventually leaving for an extended working holiday to England (where he and long-time girlfriend Amanda became engaged and Mark got the opportunity to visit Steve Harris’ home and help the group during their London convention). With just the three members, Matt decided to leave to concentrate on his other project and thus the band again ceased to be.

The birth of Ilium began after Mark’s return from England. Jason and Mark contacted Kris and Michael and began a serious attempt to do something with their music. The impact of the internet changed the way that music was marketed and the change in strategy that the group employed in order to achieve their goals had changed markedly from the days of playing live and then having to teach new members old songs all over again – never really getting anywhere. Now they could concentrate on recording and releasing their material to a virtual audience.

The name Oracle, which had been used by another group went in favour of Iliad, an ancient name for the city of Troy. Enlisting the help of session drummer David Pearson, the band set about making plans of recording a six song demo. The recording was ill-fated from the start, with an inappropriate producer and the band’s lack of studio experience, coupled with plaguing health problems, the results were truly horrible.

Kris’ lack of commitment also came into question again, and Adam Smith was contacted to join. Initially the band consisted of a triple axe attack, but Kris left shortly after. Another name change, this time to Ilium (a logo had been painted by band artist Shane Parker, and this name made it easier to change) began the commencement of the band that was to see years of effort finally come to fruition. Dave, who had helped out after his sessions had finished also no longer had the time to commit.

Jason had met up with Dungeon guitarist and vocalist Lord Tim through mutual friend Suzanne Pathkiller and from here it was agreed that a demo would be produced.

Initially it was to consist of four original songs – “Antigone”, “Half-Life”, “Semblance” and “Sirens Of The Styx”, which was to be the title track – artwork for this song had already been produced. This changed when the complexity of producing “Sirens Of The Styx” led to it being replaced by a cover of the Fleetwood Mac (based on the Judas Priest version) song “The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)”.

Partway through the recording of the EP, Michael left to be replaced briefly by Matt Woodland, though Adam was left to complete the bass parts on the EP.

The self-titled debut promo EP, featuring just the logo on a black background was critically acclaimed around the world, particularly in Germany, where two leading magazines “Metal Hammer” and “Heavy Oder Was” gave it rave reviews. America’s Sentinel Steel professed it to be one of the best debut independent releases of the last decade and Hellion records in Germany gave it similar praise and offered to take over European distribution.

Similar praise in the U.S. by Echorider Metalworks, and in Australia by Metal Mayhem, as well as enthusiastic responses to radio broadcasts in Melbourne, Newcastle, Denmark, the U.S. and Canada have led to their forthcoming debut album “Sirens Of The Styx” to be one of the most highly anticipated debuts for an unsigned band for many years.

Again produced by Lord Tim, with the drum position more than capably filled by Dungeon drummer Steve Moore, and the bass and keyboard parts again played by Adam Smith, the album promises more complex, original and yet comfortably familiar melodic / progressive power metal.

At the time of writing, Ilium’s debut album „Sirens Of The Styx“ is pending release through Italy’s Adrenaline records. In the meantime, the band are in the process of recording their second and third albums. A week before production was due to commence, Mark left the band due to unwillingness to commit time and money ahead of his family commitments.

Again, with Lord Tim at the helm, the albums are progressing superbly and show an even greater improvement and diversity from the debut.

The band have been plagued by further departures, however, with Peter finally forced to bow out due to health problems and David following to pursue a different musical direction.

Adam and Jason are continuing to write and despite these losses are more positive than ever about the future of Ilium

Jason Hodges

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