Review Summary: Despite the loss of a crucial band member, Limbonic Art manages to surprise their audience with incredible work. Rank: 0 for Limbonic Art was the project of 2 masterminds, under the names of Morfeus and Daemon. For all of the significant life of Limbonic Art they have been the only members of the project that play in symphonic black metal style.
The band disbanded in due to lack of musical ideas, but then reformed in That was until when Morfeus unexpectedly left the band due to a dispute, leaving the whole project on the shoulders of the sole remaining member Daemon. Before Phantasmagoria was released, there were many rumours that Limbonic Art would shift into a more traditional black metal band which thankfully is Album) the case here. Daemon has dedicated a Album) amount of time and effort into Phantasmagoria and has displayed much quality and musicianship, keeping many of the elements that made other albums interesting.
The production of the Album) loves to dwindle between clear and a rough, raw, distorted one. The distortion and production is enough to tell what is going on in the guitars, keyboards and vocals most of the time, as well as the drums. It mostly changes during certain verses when the guitars really add much distortion and act as a wall of sound, a technique that serves the album quite well.
The wall of noise will also be a pleasant surprise to most black metal fans, but for those that want a perfect production it will cause irritation. But actually the main attraction to the album is how the element of repetition is used meticulously, most prominently by the guitars and keyboard. They act as another instrument, another layer of complexity in the music.
At all times they keep a constant mid-paced speed, even if the songs become faster. The effect this causes in the music is keeping a constant speed mediator that continues to give the songs another layer of melody and attention. There are other times when the keyboards take an atmospheric role instead and simply add an eerie vibe. For this type of music to actually work, there needs to be a very strong keyboard input to actually push the limits of the music, yet keep it within the raw constraints of the production.
There is a very thin line of balance that keeps the volume of the keyboards with those of the guitar, during which the keyboards still play throughout most of the album, yet do not overpower or take a leading role. Overall, the leading instrument here would be the guitars, mostly playing fast and crushing riffs with plentiful distortion. One of the most enjoyable moments occurs in the song Portal to the Unknown, where the guitar riffs really add an interesting input and drive the song to oblivion.
The keyboards are still majestic, playing the same quality of melodies since their debut, Moon in the Scorpio. Never do the keyboards have a sense of grandeur, pretentiousness or even mockery; they add a much needed hole that would otherwise make the album less captivating.
Their repetition serves a great part in maintaining the albums latent, but present psychedelic vibe. I would even go as far as saying that these types of tracks are the most special kind to be found in Phantasmagoria, although most songs contain at least one slow part or two.
The main downfall of Phantasmagoria would be how much the album is non-dynamic in the sense that many songs portray many of the same elements, and the overall feeling and atmosphere is constant. Throughout the album, the listener can more or less tell what is in store by the track length. One can sense that, from a vocal perspective, Daemon took things past the threshold on this song into pure throat shredding territory. You can almost hear his vocal cords tearing before the hauntingly empty atmospherics at the end swallow the song into the darkened abyss.
Highs: The varying elements of Daemon's overall sound make for a ferocious and interesting mix. Lows: At times, the formula that is being followed on this record becomes a bit predictable. Bottom line: "Phantasmagoria" does Limbonic Art's legacy proud, taking pure Norwegian black metal to some intriguing and innovative places.
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