PhantasmaFeel free to scroll to the bottom of the page, it’s fine I don’t mind, but there, near the end will be the name of this reviewer that will confirm immediately that this is not the new release from the religious Slovakian Death Metal band of the same name (it would be a big old direction change from them if it was!). It saves any confusion from the outset, because really this couldn’t be much further away, though in all honesty, the name is much more suited to the band sporting it here. This is of course the debut release from the Symphonic Melodic Metal project put together by Georg Neuhauser (Singer of Symphonic stalwarts Serenity), Oliver Philipps (multi-instrumentalist primarily of Symphonic/Melodic Rockers Everon), and Delain front-woman Charlotte Wessels…plus a few other guests – well there had to be didn’t there?

So what do they sound like? Well, put bluntly, what we have here is literally and in execution “Her from Delain with him from Serenity singing on a few Everon tracks”. Yes, yes, there are plenty of other elements when you dig deeper, but if you have this in your mind as a base and this fills you with enthusiasm and excitement then you won’t go far wrong. Plus there are the aforementioned guests – Jason Gianni (Daredevil Squadron/ Neal Morse Band/  handles the Drums to great effect, Randy George (Neal Morse Band/Ajalon) on the Bass and there are guitar parts courtesy of ex-Serenity man Tom Buchberger. Not be forgotten are the occasional vocal appearances too – we have Evergrey’s resident laugh-a-minute front-man Tom S. Englund and Dennis Schunke from Van Canto also gets to stretch his pipes (so to speak…). There’s some really nice contributions from Chloe Lowery too (Trans-Siberian Orchestra/Chameleon). All this of course adds other dimensions to Phantasma’s Symphonic opus.

It’s possible that you’ve got to like duets and/or multi-vocalist projects like Avantasia to really get on with Phantasma, and you might benefit from being a fan of the more melodic side of Symphonic Metal too – more Edenbridge than Kamelot for instance. The ballads lean worryingly close to ‘Disney’ for my liking (In Rock/Metal there’s the term ‘Beauty and Beast vocals’ rather than ‘Beauty and the Beast vocals’ – no need to go blurring the lines now…) and from a purely personal point of view I’d like them to up the heaviness a smidge (like ‘Enter Dreamscape’ nudges into for example), but that’s a little unfair because this has absolutely everything a fan of this genre could ever want. The musicianship is exemplary, the arrangements intelligent and intricate and the lyrics are based on a short story (or Novella if you prefer…) written by Charlotte Wessel’s herself – what more could you want?

The melodies throughout are soaring, memorable and gorgeous – from all the vocalists, and there are plenty of layers within the music and individual songs that unveil themselves gradually as well as on first listen. The album sells itself – it almost reviews itself – as there are no nasty surprises, genre twists or style clashes. It really is an album that is everything you would expect it to be if you are familiar with the people involved and their huge talent. I’m sure there will be many reviews dotted around the internet dissecting the whole concept, track by track, analysing this, that and the other, so I’d rather leave that to them. As I have already said, if you know who is involved and are interested in hearing this release, then the reassurance that it is everything it should be will probably suffice. Much more fun to discover all it’s charms for yourself don’t you think?

(7.5/10 Andy Barker)