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The best days of Limbonic Art are long behind them now, having peaked in 1997-99 with the albums In Abhorrence Dementia and Ad Noctum, but the band still struggles forward, a wraith of its once promising existence. However, this is not some gaunt apparition creeping about a deserted castle, but the real estate agent of said castle, leering at you from the front gate as it hurls its keys in desperate attempts to find a buyer. That Phantasmagoria, the band's 7th full-length is the work of a battlement chiseled down to but one gargoyle, Vidar Jensen, is possibly telling of either a decline in interest or a hostile takeover, but nonetheless, we have a man here who has put a lot of effort into the guitars, drums, bass, vocals and keyboards, so to that extent the savage and 'true' delivery of the sound is somewhat impressive.
What the album lacks is memorable music, as Vidar rolls through over 70 minutes of aimless compositions that lack anything even bordering on good riffs or surprise elements. Whether it's the glaring, slowly churned daemon energy of "Curse of the Necromancer", the even more spacious "Dark Winds", or the blasting mayhem of "Apocalyptic Manifestation", "Portal to the Unknown", or the rollicking of "The Burning Vortex", there is simply nothing enthralling happening within these once vaunted walls. The primal delivery is fully intact, in fact this record gets quite fucking heavy, a truer tribute to an In the Nightside Eclipse than many of Limbonic Art's prior offerings. Vidar is a one man storm, of this there can be absolutely no denial, but the songs ramble by with such obvious, sadistic glamours that you don't once feel as if you've been swept up by a spectral armada for a crash course in dungeon torture. The music does not haunt or thrill, it does little else than exist, and it has far less of a symphonic discourse to fall back upon than its elder siblings. The one possible exception to the drab procession is the track "A Black Sphere of Serenity", late in the order, which at least offers a passable black/doom intro segment.
It's not the first time I've been underwhelmed by a work of this band. I didn't care much for the past two albums The Ultimate Death Worship or Legacy of Evil either. I have no opposition to the huge, atmospheric style Daemon is trying to punish us with, but at least a few more catchy, diabolic hooks would be required to return to its damp sorcery. The band once split up due to a lack of ambition for what could come next, so I find it a little ironic that they return and produce two further albums that lack for such inspiration. Phantasmagoria might hold minimal interest to fans of Troll's Drep de Kristne, Covenant's In Times Before the Light, or Emperor's Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, but it is devoid of their tangible trinkets of terror. I'll applaud this man's incessant energy and willingness to continue along his dreary path, but I hope he finds a better outlet for his talents thank vacuous black metal of this quality.