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Epica - The Phantom Agony CD (album) cover

THE PHANTOM AGONY

Epica

Progressive Metal


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3 stars The symphonic gothic metal band Epica’s debut album is a fairly good start of their career. This album is a stepping stone to what they would achieve later with ‘Consign to Oblivion’. I won’t really compare ‘The Phantom Agony’ and ‘Consign’ because this album was the first to created, and ‘Consign’ is easily a better and more polished album. However, I’d like to point out that both albums actually have a same format in the song arrangement. Both ‘Phantom’ and ‘Consign’ have an orchestrated opening and a title track that can be seen as an epic. Anyway, ‘The Phantom Agony’ has its own moment, and it’s not really a far weaker as a comparison either.

Now, let’s talk about the tracks. Like what I’ve mentioned earlier, the opening track is an orchestrated track which also has some choir singing. ‘Adyta’ takes you to the epic atmosphere that the band tries to create in the album. ‘Sensorium’ continues where the piano melody in ‘Adyta’ ends plus a drumming in a slightly fast tempo and also some guitar riffs. The vocal in this track seems a bit um… dull? No, not really, it’ still good actually but It just not Simone’s best vocal I believe. There’re little growling vocals here, and also some strong choir singing in the middle part of the song. ‘Cry for the Moon’ has an orchestral opening part that sounds like a movie soundtrack. Growling vocal is also here, and track has less clear vocals and more choirs. ‘Feint’ is the first softer track that you’ll hear in this album. This track only features Simone’s vocals with some orchestration and drumming, no metal sound at all.

‘Illusive Consensus’ brings back the metal sounds. This track has a haunting vocal from Simone. Near the end, the symphonic metal passage is quite strong and awesome, with the choir, orchestration and the keyboard. ‘Façade of Reality’ continues with a strong and quite epic opening. The growling voices are back in this track, but as always, there’re only a few of them. From the middle part this song becomes more excellent with Simone’s haunting vocals, strong choir and great instrument passages that quite blowing. Next is ‘Run for a Fall’. This track starts like a ballad song at the beginning, and then it turned into an excellent symphonic metal song that has a beautiful orchestration, especially toward the end. ‘Seif al Din’ kicks out some heavy riffs and quite powerful drumming at the beginning. The song has little bits of eastern music sounds in a few parts. The growling is here, and it can be heard from the beginning of the track, although they aren’t going for the whole song. And now, we’re approaching the epic title track. It starts with some orchestration, some sort of speaking with little choirs which turned into a great symphonic metal track with the orchestration (again), strong choir, guitar riffs and drumming and not to mention the haunting vocals and a little of uh… growling voices as well (you’d probably used to it by now, hopefully). The middle part of this song is quite awesome and the song ending in a quite similar way as it begins, only with greater orchestration that goes through the end of this song and album as well. It’s quite an awesome ending I think.

Overall, ‘The Phantom Agony’ is a really good album, almost great in fact. This is a fine symphonic metal album and I think whoever into this genre (and gothic metal as well) would probably like it. This album has slightly more metal elements than ‘Consign’. I’d say it doesn’t really matter whether you started with ‘Consign’ or this album first. If you like ‘Phantom’, you’ll definitely dig ‘Consign’. Even if you started with ‘Consign’ first, you’d still like this album. Three and a half stars.

Report this review (#130290)
Posted Thursday, July 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 24 carat symphonic prog metal! One of the best debut albums I have ever seen in a long time. When I first heard about the band I was not very enthusiastic about it. Back in 2002 it was common place to find prog metal bands with female vocalists. Besides, I was never a big fan of After Forever, Mark Jansen's previous band. That band was good, but not really exceptional. So I was quite surprised when I heard Epica's CD being played in a record store I was just passing by. I was completely taken by that incredible and tasteful music. I bought the album hoping the remaning of it could be as good as what I listened there. Fortunalty my senses were right.

The songs were very well crafted, arranged and performed. The orchestral arrangements (with a real orchestra) and the choir (with real, professional classical singers) were not really a novelty, but man, were they good! They work as a part of the overall sound of guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and vocals. the result is stunning! Great symphonic, powerful, melodic and beautiful music that is hard to label. It's simply wonderful! And it gave the world the first taste of the fantastic singer Simone Simmons. She not only has a great, classical trained, voice, but she is also a strong and unique perfomer. She is really Epica's s most outstanding figure, in a group full of outstanding musicians.

All tracks are ecellent, very powerful and inspired. It's difficult to point some highlights here, since there is not fillers or even weaker tracks, but my favorites are Illusive Consensus, Sensorium and the poignant power ballad Feint, among others. The only parts I really don't like are some of the death metal vocals by guitarrist Mark Jensen, but they are few and far between. With a superb production and great booklet, this is one of the most surprising debut albums by any band in the new millenium.

I was not really goind to give it 5 stars, but upon hearing it again after all these years, it would be unfair to rated The Phantom Agony anything less. It is a masterpiece of prog music, IMO. And I recommended it to any prog lover that does not care for labels, but for great symphonic music.

Report this review (#189068)
Posted Thursday, November 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album, quite frankly, is terribly overrated. Even Epica themselves have said that their second album is better (of course, that was right after they finished their second album, so maybe they had bias towards it). For those who were fans of After Forever's first 2 albums, the guitarist is the same guitarist, Mark Jansen. After Forever sacked him, and he started his own band called Sahara Dust, which was going to include Helena of note from Trail of Tears, but she left for a different project and Mark Jansen brought in his girlfriend Simone Simmons. He changed the band's name to Epica in tribute to Kamelot's album of the same name, and from there they went on to record this album. I think the biggest problem with this album is Mark, who seems to be the leader of this band for now, and brings both terrible ideas and brilliant ideas to the band, without his bad ideas getting shot down. We have a thicket of clichés so overgrown you can barely breathe, and right when you think it can't get any lamer, some awesome or beautiful part will come in and restore your faith. Then we have things that shouldn't have gotten off the drawing board, for example the spoken sections. Oh, and it is almost all psuedo-intellectual religion bashing, so if you get sick of that, too bad. There is also a song expressing his frustrations with after forever called run for a fall, so in case you wanted a break from the religion bashing you can have After Forever bashing, yay! (They are now on good terms again) This album is dwarfed by their next 2 albums, and I would almost say it's for collectors/fans only, but it has enough strong points that one can enjoy it without being a fan, especially if you aren't turned off by melodrama and cliches.
Report this review (#200742)
Posted Monday, January 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This gets 4 stars. I think it deserves more than that, but the only thing after that is 5, and to be 5, at least in my rating system, it needs to be an absolute landmark of the progressive rock genre... something like Dark Side of the Moon.

I will begin by saying that this album is amazing! I first came across Epica on Vampirefreaks, when I was just browsing through metal music, and found Epica. I liked the name and clicked on them by chance, and heard cry for the moon. I was just amazed by the male and female vocals dueling each other, the symphonic majesty, and its progressive, technical structure... going from quiet and ballad like to a really fast death metal type of style. It was very Epic.

I gave the album a listen, and found that it is consistent with this throughout. Epica is very good at fusing two completely different genres together, and alot of times one genre is used to give the other a slightly better edge. For example, a lot of the distorted guitars of metal are used to give rhythm to their classical sounding parts, and vice versa. The progressiveness of this record comes from the technicality... just the nature and way that they encorporate rock and classical music together, all the songs interesting song structures, extended lengths, epic compositions etc. My favourite songs from this album are Cry for the Moon, Facade of Reality, and the Phantom Agony.

This is definitely worth checking out, and out of the symphonic progressive metal genre, it is definitely an outstanding release.

Report this review (#220432)
Posted Tuesday, June 9, 2009 | Review Permalink

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