Released: 2003, Transmission Records
I first heard this almost exactly one year ago. A friend pulled it off the net and gave me a cassette (remember those?) for my car. It had no songs, no info just, ‘Epica’ written in pencil on the tape. I didn’t know a thing about the band but I was instantly hooked. I went to buy it at my local store. They said it would cost me $40.00 but it was worth it. Six months later, still no CD. Eventually the store tells me it is out of print. So I resign myself to hunting on E-bay. Then to my very good fortune a few weeks later
the fine folks at The End Records license this disc (and the Aina) and suddenly it is available and inexpensive!
This band is world class. Yes they took their name from a Kamelot CD. Big deal. It still works! Transmission and The End did a great job with this rookie act from Holland. They get the deluxe treatment with a killer booklet, awesome cover, great graphics and layout, intelligent lyrics, notes and so on.
The budget for the music must have been quite decent because we have no less than 16 guest musicians in the form of various choirs or orchestral contributors. The disc is immaculately produced by Sascha Paeth. Everything that man produces is flawless, I swear. The same production team that worked on Aina-The Metal Opera is in place giving the disc a similar feel seeing that they are both orchestral metal projects.
Lead by the stunningly sweet vocals of Simone the gothic feel will draw obvious comparisons to Tara of Nightwish but I feel Simones mezzo-soprano voice is closer to that of Sabine Edelsbacher of Edenbridge. She is truly the highlight. Her awesome voice is juxtaposed nicely with death growls that are used to a limited degree but to great effect. A whole host of voices back her up including Amanada Sommerville.
The song vary in tone and tempo from a short intro, to a speedy tune called ‘Façade of Reality’ with lots of choirs and samples, to the very catchy ‘Cry Of The Moon’ to the epic by Epica, the nine minute title track. The tempo covers all the bases never too fast or too slow. The orchestration adds layer upon layer of listening pleasure. There is a lot going on in each song, most of them being fairly complex and but not very lengthy compositions.
I’m not surprised this was a big hit in the Netherlands and certainly fans of After Forever, Lullacry, Lacuna Coil, and any number of bands playing this new style of gothic metal with female vocals will be very pleased with this band. The Phantom Agony is a complex, intriguing and extremely pleasurable listening experience.