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Machinae Supremacy - "Phantom Shadow" (CD)

Machinae Supremacy - "Phantom Shadow" CD cover image

"Phantom Shadow" track listing:

1. I Wasn't Made for the World I Left Behind
2. The Villain of this Story
3. Perfect Dark
4. Europa
5. Throne of Games
6. Meanwhile in the Hall Of Shadows
7. Phantom Battle
8. Captured (Sara's Theme)
9. Renegades
10. Beyond Good and Evil
11. The Second One
12. Redemption Was Never Really My Thing
13. The Bigger They Are the Harder They Fall
14. Versus
15. Mortal Wound (Skye's Requiem)
16. Hubnester Rising

Reviewed by on August 6, 2014

"'Phantom Shadow' exhibits some of the best qualities of heavy metal, and a listener would be hard pressed to find an album so far this year that's got a better mix of solid instrumentation, epic feel, and straight up fun songs."

Despite having been releasing albums for a solid ten years now, Machinae Supremacy just finally made it onto this reviewer's radar with “Phantom Shadow.” Described by many as “that video game band,” the album is a completely unexpected success story in the world of power and melodic metal, covering a wide range of sounds and forcing metal heads out of their comfort zones.

Energetic, engaging, and entertaining from start to finish, “Phantom Shadow” hosts a diverse lineup of tracks that range from epic power metal to melancholy instrumentals, including clean singing from both genders. The power metal focus strikes all the right chords – not going too over the top but still easily cranking the nob directly to “10” and leaving it there.

So what about the “video game metal” descriptor that gets tossed around? Honestly, that's more window dressing than solid musical base. It's in the beginnings, endings, and interludes, rather than being used as a core sound. “Perfect Dark,” “Beyond Good And Evil” and “The Bigger They Are The Harder They Fall” are the only tracks that really put the 16-bit sounds directly into the main melody front and center.

Depending on your point of view that may be good or bad. While it would have been interesting to hear a full album based around SNES era sound effects, leaving it more restrained lets the metal shine through stronger. At the very least, this mashup of sounds and eras does make the band distinct from others in the genre and creates an easily recognizable style.

Whether any given song uses the video game style or not, the album consistently nails the grandiose atmosphere, as the band has a solid grasp of building up sounds and using instrumental material to create a mood before letting loose with the metal. While it's not brutal or dark in any way, “Phantom Shadow” still exhibits some of the best qualities of heavy metal, and a listener would be hard pressed to find an album so far this year that's got a better mix of solid instrumentation, epic feel, and straight up fun songs.

Highs: Epic power metal gets a video game makeover, and somehow the band amazingly doesn't go too over the top.

Lows: Depending on your point of view, there will probably be either too much or too little in the video game sound effect department.

Bottom line: Diverse and hugely entertaining, "Phantom Shadow" nails the epic power metal tracks with video game sounds as well as the somber interludes.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)