epysode_Epysode’s debut totally passed me by! I missed it somehow – How?? I do like a bit of Dark Power Metal and sure enough this second offering has it in spades. There’s no Dragons being slayed here, no wizards. no warlocks, no fantasy lands – Nope, what Epysode guitarist and mastermind Samuel Arkan has created is an album of well-crafted Heavy Progressive Power Metal of the darker persuasion. This is no Avantasia, it’s much gloomier…basically it’s Evergrey/Communic with lots of top notch guest vocalists. And lo, he’s got Tom S. Englund from Evergrey singing on here…and the guy from Communic was on the last one so now you kind of know what to expect.

One thing that does stand out on “Fantasmagoria” is that Arkan has managed to coax all the vocalists to record at different times in the same studio, to try and give the project a more unified, band-type feel, which is no mean feat given the people involved. But Arkan clearly wanted a sound that can only be obtained by getting the vocalists under his own supervision and motivation. Very commendable, but I imagine Evergrey’s Tom S. Englund (Anyone familiar with Evergrey will know the ‘S’ clearly stands for ‘Soooo Miserable’…) alone must have taken plenty of motivating; “Hey Tom, d’ya fancy a bash at singing this song I’ve written – it’s all about suffering, injustice, misery and despondency!” “Well…OK, I am particularly glum today…” “Great, go on Tom, give it a go, you know you want to – look, I’ve even got the word ‘despair’ in there, cos I know how much you love singing that one…come on Tom, perk up, you know you want to…” and so on…

I have to say, everyone does sound pretty motivated from the word go though – Meaty riffs, subtle orchestration, intricate, yet pounding drums and grooving bass with each hand-picked vocalist at the top of his or her game. But who are these others singers and musicians, are you ever going to get around to telling us Andy? Well (yeah, sorry about that…), as well as the aforementioned Mr Ray of Sunshine, we have Henning Basse (ex-Metalium, ex-Sons Of Seasons, Mayan), Ida Haukland (Triosphere), Matt Marinelli (Borealis), Tezzi Persson (Between The Silence), Mike LePond (Symphony X) is on bass, Léo Margarit (Pain Of Salvation) handles the drums, Julien Spreutels (Ethernity) the keyboards and Simone Mularoni (DGM) contributes a bit of guitar too.

At present, I don’t have any info as to who sings what on this record but anyone familiar with the singers on show here should be able to pick them out – and why spoil the surprise? I love the fact that I can’t pin down half of the vocal performances on here even though I’m familiar with all the singers individual bands. Highlights are many and definitely include the first two tracks that Mr. Englund takes the lead on. Yes, it’s difficult to make anything Tom S. sings sound anything other than Evergrey, as he has such a wonderfully distinctive smooth voice (that I thoroughly enjoy by the way, it’s just his usual lyrical content makes the term ‘enjoy’ stretch a little…), but this and his other performances really stand out all over this album. That said, it’s great that as the album progresses other singers get to sing similarly Evergrey-style vocal lines and lyrics in their own way. Henning Basse for instance is always going to nail it, and his contributions are about as ‘Traditional Power Metal’ as this album gets, but he too totally excels. The fact that there sounds to be 11 or 12 different singers on here when there is only 5 listed is a huge testament to the performers involved. Everyone gets a chance to show many sides of their talent. There is a ballad…and it’s a male female duet! Now, anyone who has read my recent reviews (a big Hello to both of you!) will know that I have mildly hinted at a dislike of Disney-style duet ballads. I’m not partial, shall we say, but this is how to do a ballad! Tom and Ida trade sorrow above a minor key piano tune that just rips your heart out. Henning gets a look in later in the track too (I think it’s him…) and of course it builds to a blinding guitar solo. What a stunner.

But there you see? The temptation to analyse the performances and songs on offer here is unbelievably tempting – but seriously, to do this feels like I would be ruining the end of a great novel! The term Power Metal alone doesn’t do this justice and Dark Metal has been used…so I really don’t know how to label this. Bloody Good Metal might have to do!

(8/10 – Andy Barker)