Iluvatar's roots go back to 1983 with the Maryland-based progressive rock cover band Sojourn. As the group's focus shifted to original material, the name was changed to Iluvatar, from a character in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. Iluvatar began performing live in the Baltimore area in May 1992. Their song-based art rock format, featuring superb lyrics and excellent musicianship, allowed Iluvatar to quickly acquire a following of devoted listeners. Though the primary focus of their live performances was on original compositions, the band occasionally accented their sets with music from Genesis, Marillion, and Pink Floyd.
Iluvatar's self-titled debut CD was released in November 1993 and quickly became the Kinesis label's top-seller. Iluvatar re-entered the studio in March 1995 to record Children, also for Kinesis, with Dean Morekas replacing original bassist Mick Trimble. Many of the lyrics on the first studio album, as well as a few on the second and third, were written or co-written by guitarist Tom Kraus, a talented songwriter and former member who left the band prior to the recording of the first CD.
Following the release of Children, original drummer Gary Chambers left the band and was replaced by Rick Fleischmann. Rick left in early 1997 and was succeeded by Allen Brunelle for several months, then by Chris Mack, cementing the current line-up. Vocalist Glenn McLaughlin, guitarist Dennis Mullin and keysman Jim Rezek remain from the original formation.
September 1997 saw the release of Sideshow, a live document with assorted unreleased studio tracks added as a bonus. A Story Two Days Wide, their most adventurous work to date, was released at the end of October 1999, and the expectation is that it will become their top-selling album. They are clearly the top band of their style in the USA, and one of the best in the entire world, on a level playing field with noted bands such as IQ, Pendragon, and Arena.
Iluvatar have been regulars on the progressive music festival circuit, having played at ProgScape in 1994 and 1996 (Baltimore), ProgDay 96 (North Carolina), ProgEst 97 (Quebec) and Baja Prog 98 (Mexico). In September 1997, they played two successive nights in Buenos Aires, Argentina to a wildly enthusiastic crowd.
Rob La Duca
(originally published in the NEARFest 2000 Program Guide, edited for Gnosis 11/3/01)
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