Phantasma: The Deviant Hearts

Metal-driven supergroup creates concept album that will spawn many Trans-Siberian-inspired sequels. And yet it's not a ripoff. More power to all involved.


The Deviant Hearts

Label: Napalm
US Release Date: 2015-11-20
UK Release Date: 2015-11-20

Power Prog? Symphonic Metal? Power Metal Symphony?

Delain vocalist Charlotte Wessels has teamed up with Georg Neuhauser of Serenity and Everon’s Oliver Phillipps for this new epic, symphonic record, based on a Wessels novella which, like the record, is titled The Deviant Hearts. It's predictably grand and grandiose, landing somewhere between Trans-Siberian Orchestra (that outfit’s Chloe Lowery appears here), John Tesh-style new age, and the best of melodic heavy metal. The result is a record that will more than likely have greater appeal to European audiences (you can almost feel the frost of a European winter moving in while the tracks unwind) than American ones, but still stands a good go at making a good share of Best Of lists for 2015.

Those familiar with the genres that merge to make Phantasma possible can probably already hear the record pretty well in their minds: Gorgeous female vocals, heavenly lead guitar lines and keyboard passages plus grand, operatic rhythms and voices stacked from here to hell won’t have it. Those aren’t backhanded compliments but instead observations on what makes this kind of stuff work when it’s working best. And here it works pretty damn well.

The titular tune is awash with all that is right with this recording: Nylon string guitars weaving between stunning piano figures before being washed away by towering, staggering drums and a flood of absolutely every layer of everything. It would be over-the-top in lesser hands but these, dear reader, are professionals who could do this sort of thing in their sleep but instead opt to do it the right way: with passion and vigor and feelings that are deeper than the Baltic. That tune pretty well sets the template for the rest of the record, whether the tender “Try”, the stunning “The Lotus and the Willow” or ultimate closing track of 2015, “Let It Die”.

Even when things break from the expected path, even slightly, such as on “Crimson Course”, we’re still reminded that this material is bridged together by something bigger, something greater than just a series of rock songs. “Carry Me Home” might be extracted as a single (and a rather good one at that), but its place here is firm and memorable and the beauty of its early, swelling moments are hard to forget.

Does the storyline matter? For those interested in that sort of thing, naturally, for the casual listener who just wants to mime some operatic vocals and keyboard lines in the privacy of their own living room? Maybe not as much. It’s just icing on the ice at this point and who could want more of such a good thing?

Other musicians involved include Evergrey’s Tom Englund, Randy George of Neal Morse’s band and Trans-Siberian’s Jason Gianni lends drums along the way but their involvement would mean nothing without superior material to carry this record across the finish line and thankfully that’s exactly what we get.

Here’s hoping that all involved can recapture the magic for inevitable sequel which should be announced by the end of this sentence.


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