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Limbonic Art - "Phantasmagoria" (CD)

Limbonic Art - "Phantasmagoria" CD cover image

"Phantasmagoria" track listing:

1. Prologue / Phantasmagoria (5:02)
2. Crypt of Bereavement (5:52)
3. Curse of the Necromancer (6:22)
4. Portal to the Unknown (4:22)
5. Dark Winds (5:40)
6. A World in Pandemonium (6:43)
7. Flight of the Minds Eye (3:48)
8. Apocalyptic Manifestation (4:02)
9. Prophetic Dreams (5:40)
10. The Burning Vortex (6:54)
11. A Black Sphere of Serenity (8:24)
12. Astral Projection (8:13)

Reviewed by on November 6, 2010

"By the time the album’s finale, “Astral Projection,” puts the final black leather boot down on this furious storm with its sweeping, militant and obsessively tempestuous nature, its clear that a battle has just been endured."

“Phantasmagoria” is Norwegian black metal act Limbonic Art’s seventh full-length release and the first since the duo that was once Morfeus and Daemon was stripped down to a solo act comprised solely of Daemon on all instruments and vocals. This album features 12 tracks, clocking in at just over an hour, and presents a mix of old school and new era black metal and symphonic black metal along with elements of funeral doom.

The album goes for the throat from the outset, on the opening title track, with a raw, blasting sound with production that is still surprisingly clean and modern by pure black metal standards. From the very beginning the classical undertones, doom passages, and symphonic elements that come to define the record as a whole are prevalent.

The following song, “Crypt of Bereavement,” brings out some aspects of old school black metal—the early days of Mayhem crossed with modern symphonic black metal, with Daemon’s typical black metal vocals that are densely layered and avoid delving into the grating shriek territory. At times, he seems to channel his inner Nergal, and even incorporates clean spoken word vocals beneath the screams and growls at times. Elongated chords held on the synthesizer, while not complex by any means, add a necessary haunting quality that doesn’t overwhelm the overall aesthetic in the mix.

“Curse of the Necromancer” follows with a hook that sounds more like Scandinavian Viking metal than Norwegian black metal, but this is about as far as Limbonic Art strays from its blackened roots. The first three songs exemplify the formula that is largely followed throughout “Phantasmagoria.” Songs come out blasting and then slow things down to the speed of thick, syrupy stage blood dripping down a fresh coat of corpse paint.

Throughout the album, the listener can more or less tell what is in store by the track length. Shorter songs such as “Portal to the Unknown,” “Flight of the Minds Eye,” and Apocalyptic Manifestation” are all out blasting chaos with shorter mid-to-down tempo interludes than the longer tracks, which drag these passages out. The latter is perhaps the record’s most furious and urgent track. 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.

Though Daemon does tread into formulaic realms on this disc—blast, doom, blast, atmospherics, repeat—he does switch things up with “Dark Winds,” which opens with the sound of winds howling across the Norwegian fjords before the man himself begins screaming over the darkly harmonized riffs of this lumbering leviathan—like a demonic downbeat hymn performed on a subterranean Satanic church organ.

One thing worth mentioning is that, due to the album’s length, by the time “Phantasmagoria” makes its way to its final three tracks, it almost stretches past that invisible barrier of one’s capacity for absorbing aural punishment in one sitting given the music’s utter ferocity. It’s almost as though the record needs to be absorbed in segments rather than as a whole. Though much thought was obviously put into the track listing, it’s also notable that the disc’s final three tracks are also its longest, with the final two passing the eight minute mark, but the high production value gives it a certain durability that the old school necro approach would have decimated. By the time the album’s finale, “Astral Projection,” puts the final black leather boot down on this furious storm with its sweeping, militant and obsessively tempestuous nature, its clear that a battle has just been endured.

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.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

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)