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Epysode > Fantasmagoria > Reviews
Epysode - Fantasmagoria

Could almost be dubbed album of the year - 95%

TrooperOfSteel, September 10th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2013, CD, AFM Records

For those who have not yet heard of Epysode, then you are in for a real treat as this band has produced two mammoth releases since forming in 2011. Epysode is a Belgian melodic progressive/power metal band, with the brainchild of the group being guitarist Samuel Arkan (Virus IV). Epysode is a metal opera of sorts, similar to other projects like Avantasia and Soulspell; but also different in its own way.

On the debut album, ‘Obsessions’, Arkan surrounded himself with a conglomerate of metal talent, both with musicians and vocalists. The musicians consisted of bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw (The Shadow Theory/ex-Pain Of Salvation), keyboardist Julien Spreutels (Ethernity), drummer Léo Margarit (Pain Of Salvation) and guitarist Christophe Godin. On the latest CD entitled ‘Fantasmagoria’, only Margarit and Spreutels have returned, while Arkan has invited bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X/ex-Seven Witches) and guitarist Simone Mularoni (DGM/Empyrios) into the fold.

The talent pool of vocalists is just as impressive, where ‘Obsessions’ consisted of Rick Altzi (At Vance/Frequency/Masterplan/Herman Frank/ex-Thunderstone), Kelly “Sundown” Carpenter (Firewind/Adagio/ex-Beyond Twilight/ex-Outworld), Oddleif Stensland (Communic), female vocalists Magali Luyten (Beautiful Sin/Frameshift) and Liselotte Hegt. Not to be outdone, Arkan has produced another 5 different vocalists for the new album, which includes Tom Englund (Evergrey), Henning Basse (Mayan/ex-Metalium/ex-Sons of Seasons), Matt Marinelli (Borealis) and female vocalists Ida Haukland (Triosphere) and Tezzi Persson. If that is not enough to entice your interest in this band, then I don’t know what will.

With the melodic progressive/power metal tag attached to the project, Epysode would greatly appeal to fans of bands like Ayreon, Star One, Evergrey, Kamelot, Prototype, Avantasia, Sons of Seasons, Symphony X, Adagio, Cloudscape and Pain Of Salvation. Both CDs are absolutely sensational, with the musicians and vocalists working together in such a mesmerising way, it brings out the strengths in all involved.

Both ‘Obsessions’ and ‘Fantasmagoria’ are concept albums, one following on from the other which are quite emotional and dark at the same time, with plenty of detail and flair to boot. Both releases were also mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen, who has previously worked with bands such as Pretty Maids, Anubis Gate and Divided Multitude; has now done a top-notch effort here with Epysode.

Concentrating now more on ‘Fantasmagoria’, which almost (for the first time) got a perfect score from me, but I have decided not to give the full marks only because I felt that the album had one or two too many songs, with the 14 track disc (one intro and one interlude) clocking in at just under 63 minutes. My own personal opinion of course, however fans of the group will absolutely relish the supreme song-writing that has been crafted into this disc. Creative, bold, bombastic, aggressive, passionate and atmospheric are words that are just the tip of the iceberg when describing this masterpiece; and I do mean that in the true sense of the word.

Tom Englund has quite a large role in ‘Fantasmagoria’ and for fans of Evergrey; you will not be disappointed with Englund’s standout performance on this album. All 5 vocalists mesh together extremely well, delivering combinations of all, whether it is two or three vocalists on each track, mixing it up musically to bring out the best of their abilities. You may expect the songs to be quite long in length considering the style of metal this is, however the longest track on the CD is 6:49 (that being the emotional semi-ballad and title track “Fantasmagoria”). On average, the tracks clock in at around 4:30 and range from speedy double bass pummeling aggressive beauties, to ballad-esque to mid-paced tracks with powerful and catchy melodies, prominent bass and just the right amount of keys/synths and orchestral elements.

Although I feel (as I mentioned earlier), that there is one to two too many tracks on the album, as there is a lot to take in and could be overwhelming at the back nine of the disc, I must say that the tracks on ‘Fantasmagoria’ are exceptional. I won’t mention any of them in detail here; as that will completely spoil the surprise of when you hear it for the first time.

My hat goes off to Samuel Arkan, who is an absolute musical genius, not only to be able to create two wonderful albums, but also for knowing inside and out the people he wanted for these concept albums; their strengths, how well they work with others and where to place them and when depending on the music building up around them. Arkan is truly a magnificent musical mind and songwriter.

Fans of the bands mentioned earlier must be drooling by now, as Epysode should be exactly what you are in to, while fans of both progressive/power and melodic power metal will also find this band most definitely worth your time and interest. You will not be disappointed in any way, shape or form; and don’t be surprised if you see ‘Fantasmagoria’ in a lot of metal reviewer’s top 10 at the end of 2013.

Originally written for (2013)

Album of the Year - 97%

MindRuler33, January 12th, 2014

It's criminal how under-the-radar this album has been, especially considering the cast of people involved. While guys such as Simone Mularoni (guitars, DGM), Matt Marinelli (vocals, Borealis), and Ida Haukland (vocals, Triosphere) may not exactly be household names, the appearance of Tom S. Englund (vocals, Evergrey) and Mike LePond (bass, Symphony X) should've at least warranted this project a little more attention than it has seemingly attracted. The first Epysode album was impressive for coming out of nowhere by an unknown composer, but as soon as creator/guitarist Samuel Arkan began teasing guests and clips for Fantasmagoria, I knew the bar was being raised to a new level.

Most multi-singer projects tend to get bogged down by streamlining things to one singer per track, more of a showcase than an interwoven concept album, but such is most certainly not the case here. Only a handful of tracks feature a solitary vocalist ("The Arch" - Tom S. Englund, "Morning Rose" - Ida Haukland, "Venom" - Henning Basse). Most of the rest see a minimum of two (sometimes more) singers going back and forth with each other, adding to the drama. Perhaps the most glorious example of singer interplay comes on the album's title track, the epic ballad "Fantasmagoria", featuring Tom S. Englund and Ida Haukland singing a powerful duet with an appearance by Henning Basse as well.

Overall, the concept of the album is far more involved than many other bands tend to write - I won't go into detail here because most people prefer to experience it themselves, but "sci-fi thriller" seems to be the best way to describe the general content. Musically, the atmosphere is rather dark, akin to a Beyond Twilight vibe, aided by the slick production of Jacob Hansen. The riffs are heavy, the drumming is relentless, and the emotional drama added by the vocal performances propels the whole album into the stratosphere for me. The only real complaint I can make is that I feel "Forgotten Symphony" would have made a significantly better album conclusion than "Unreal". It's not that "Unreal" is a bad song, but it's a little nondescript in comparison to most of what's found here, and "Forgotten Symphony" is full of bombast and epic elements that would've made it the perfect finale. Aside from that, I truly find this to be a flawless record comprised of stellar playing, amazing vocal performances, great production, and memorable songwriting.

Fantasmagoria - 60%

Andromeda_Unchained, November 11th, 2013

Album number two from Samuel Arkan's Epysode is your average slab of dark, progressively tinged power metal; armed to the teeth with more singers than you can shake a stick at. The guest list this time around includes the likes of Evergrey's Tom Englund, Triosphere's Ida Haukland, Henning Basse who I'm sure we all remember from Metalium, and Symphony X bassist extraordinaire Mike LePond. Of course there are others to mention, but that would be a little indulgent.

It's good to see the singers are pretty well integrated to the music here, as a lot of these projects seem to rely on showcasing one singer per track (Empires Of Eden, I'm looking at you). Epysode is more akin to Ayreon or Avantasia in the utilization of guest talent, with each of the singers appearing particularly frequent across the album. Tom Englund and Ida Haukland seem to be the most prominent, which is great in my book, Tom sounds really good but I'd have to say that Ida completely steals the show whenever she appears. Much like she did on the latest Teodor Tuff release, she puts forth a passionate performance, further establishing herself as one of the finer female vocalists in the scene today – we need a new Triosphere album!

As with a lot of albums taking this approach, the music isn't quite as exciting as the personnel. This is a very modern brand of power metal with that aforementioned progressive tinge, very typical of the style although certainly well performed. Expect chugging riffs, and plenty of keyboards throughout, as well as the odd extreme metal touch, be it in the vocals or some of the music. The sound across the board is pristine here, thanks to the skills of Jacob Hansen who, as always, does an incredible job mixing and mastering.

Whilst I wouldn't say there was anything to really write home about with Fantasmagoria, I'd definitely say the album has its moments. Tracks such as "Raven's Curse", "T.H.O.R.N.S." and the ace prog power stomp of opener "The Arch" certainly boast a fair bit of appeal and are sure to please fans of the style. There's plenty of good performances across the board too, particularly in the lead guitars and of course the singers. Nothing that hasn't been done before (or better), but without a doubt solid enough; give this a listen if Beyond Twilight jamming with Avantasia sounds like your thing.

Originally written for