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Phantasmagory > Phantasmagoria > Reviews
Phantasmagory - Phantasmagoria

From Phantasmagoria to Deep Euphoria - 93%

bayern, August 21st, 2018

This great visionary batch started as Death Sentence in the early-90’s with a style that was close to the atmospheric doom/death metal idea as exemplified by the early My Dying Bride recordings. More ambitious, more mind-scratching vistas flooded their subconscious later a reflection of this metamorphosis being the album reviewed here.

Cause it’s pretty much a full-length we’re talking here, one that also comes with a fairly good sound quality the latter ingredient mandatory if one wants to reach far in the progressive/death metal field since this is the upgraded approach the guys have set their minds on. In other words, we have a fairly appetizing “phantasmagoria” cooked, one that shares quite a bit with masterpieces like Pestilence’s “Spheres”, Sieges Even’s “Steps” and to a lesser extent Cynic’s “Focus”; so expect cleverly-executed music with jazzy/fusion nuances and creepy minimalistic arrangements, almost completely devoid of any brutal, hyper-speedy escapades.

А very important element, which puts this effort on a different pedestal from the mentioned ones, is the keyboards; they play a vital role in the construction of the compositions in a way not too far from Sadist’s “Tribes” even, sometimes also to the point of over-saturation. Their presence initially is merely ephemeral, though, just providing the background on which the anomalous twisted jumpy riffage on “Moment of Despair” develops, a solid macabre creeper also serving brief melodic leads and throaty death metal vocals the latter never pretending to be anything more than the requisite unobtrusive assistance. More expansive, cosmic visions enter the scene on “Cosmogony” largely due to the increased application of the keyboards which “fight” with the surreal angular riff-patterns for domination, a strangely captivating anti-climactic approach to song-writing which becomes more jarring and aggressive on “Project”, a nervy deathster taken straight from the mentioned Pestilence opus or Atheist’s “Elements” with quieter psychedelic respites making a fuller use of the keyboards to a deeply atmospheric effect. More outlandish shredding ala Nomicon and Mekong Delta takes over on the brilliant short puzzler “Frustration” which may indeed frustrate the more linear thinkers with the abrupt plot changes and the inordinate riff-density, but the frustration can never be too big here with the compositions seldom crossing the 4-min mark save for “On the Verge of Insanity”, a more ambitiously executed progressiver in the best tradition of early Sadist, with enchanting keyboard melodies overwriting the clinical guitar work, the splendid setting also greatly augmented by the virtuoso bass pirouettes dancing around.

Fans of the aforementioned albums/bands will find their new heroes here as this obscure effort comes very close to the genius exuded on those; it’s a real wonder to listen to these patiently-woven staccato rifforamas where the need to speed up at least a bit seems like a most redundant thought including on the several short instrumentals scattered around. And yet, it’s hardly the most composed opus out there, either, as the nervy jumpy rhythm-section seldom knows a genuine respiteful moment the guitars constantly keeping the fan on his/her toes with their neurotic configurations on which even some of the mathcore enthusiasts may find something to like. The keyboard utilization is by no means the newest gimmick on the scene, but apart from Sadist again, and partially Nocturnus, not another act has voted to give this disputable accompaniment a steady, omnipresent status within the death metal confines without ruining their intentions.

The sophomore was another masterpiece assembled in pretty much the same way, around the compelling guitars/keyboards symbiosis, the guys providing longer, more perplexing labyrinthine compositions looking more towards the purer progressive metal roster; a journey nearly completed on the third instalment where death metal was only reflected in the vocal department the guy having never changed his initial husky, semi-declamatory subdued timbre. The keyboards have emerged victorious in their “tussle” against the guitars on this last one as they dictated the proceedings much more authoritatively than before. Sweet melodic, keyboard-induced euphoria seems to have become the order of the day, one that made the band’s disappearance from the scene even less noticeable… until the next phantasmagorical deathlike fiesta.

Total Pestilence Spheres worship - 45%

natrix, March 14th, 2004

I love Pestilence, and I really like Phantasmagory, but this demo/album just doesn't cut it. They would later develop into something really great with their Odd Sounds, but on here it's in a very embryonic state
All those weird guitar riffs as well as the bad sound from Spheres (I'm sorry, but the guitar tone on that album was not enjoyable...I'd almost be tempted to say that it SUCKS), and you get really random feeling riffs all over the place. Then the keyboards will come in and do something really random with a terrible sound that sounds lame as hell instead of adding to the feel of the piece. This is not effective use of a keyboard in the least. Vocals are the typical scratchy black-metal rasp, and bass is pretty much non-existant.
There are good ideas on here, as I have said, but you have to look pretty hard for them. I find this pretty difficult to sit through, because on top of it all you have the production values of four track in a garage. For music as technical as Phantasmagory, it just doesn't work. Hey, it helped put them on the map, but other than a starting place for their future greatness, it's not very good.