Phantasma - The Deviant Hearts

Phantasma The Deviant Hearts cover
The Deviant Hearts
Napalm Records
Charlotte Wessels is the singer of Delain, a Dutch band that Roadrunner tried to introduce as some sort of “Anti-Nightwish”, but when they didn’t sell as well as they were hoping, just let go. She along with the band released a fourth album on the relatively smaller, but big – in terms of non-multinational supported companies, Napalm Records just a couple of years ago.
Apparently, Phantasma, seems to be billed as her “solo” project, (probably because she’s the most prominent of the three people involved in it), which also features, Georg Neuhauser (Serenity) and Oliver Philipps (Everon). It was born of the former’s desire to try his hand at a conceptual/pseudo-theatrical piece. Collaborating with Oliver (whose both a singer and a multi-instrumentalist) took care of most of the other arrangement and additional performances as necessary were carried off by Jason Gianni (Daredevil Squadron, Neal Morse Band, TSO) on drums, Randy George (Neal Morse Band, Ajalon) on bass and Tom Buchberger (ex-Serenity) guesting two songs on guitar. Since Oliver had worked with Delain, since their early days, it wasn’t too hard to talk Wessels into joining forces with them. The album comes with an eponymous short novella included, upon which its concept is based.
While “The Deviant Hearts” is not “bad” per se, it’s a long way from being “phenomenal” I don’t know if I’d blame Wessels performances as probably not being as enthusiastic as they could be, but I think it’s unfair, blaming her, because even if her singing leaves a bit to be desire in terms of passion in the performances, the song themselves, although melodic and structured, aren’t the stuff dreams are made of, making them almost instantly forgettable as they don’t deviate from a generic and formulaic approach.
“Incomplete” is a nice little acoustic duet, between Oliver and Charlotte, that sounds ideal as far as an introduction is concerned.
“The Deviant Hearts” tries too hard on the theatrical and symphonic front but ultimately manages to convince for its intentions. It also features an appearance by Evergrey’s Tom Englund.
However the poppy and tender “Runaway Gray”, without being bad, seems to rely just on a chorus to keep it from being boring.
“Try” has Wessels dueting with Cloe Lowery of TSO fame and sees Dennis Schunke from Van Canto assuming the male vocals which manage to save the song from again becoming tiresome with his “bit”.
“Enter Dreamscape” has this little delicate intro that’s quite fetching, but quickly it give its place to a very symphonic and metallic main arrangement, that’s not horrid, but drags on for quite a bit (also featuring traces of Tom Englund).
“Miserable Me” sees Oliver assuming most of the lead vocals with Wessels only doing the odd chorus second voice or so. Not bad, but somehow the flow between some of the songs – something very important for a concept album is far from smooth.
“The Lotus and the Willow” is a half-arsed duet between the two that would love to be something along the lines of “Where the Wild Roses Grow”, but it doesn’t come close… not at the least bit, being almost the polar opposite of that song in terms of grief and passion. The only great thing about it is a very nice and evocative solo that really outshines anything else in the song.
“Crimson Course” borrows a page or two from Meatloaf’s theatrics and maybe a bit of Magnum’s pomp and splendor and finally has the singers singing quite passionately. Again a very nice, albeit quite short solo makes an appearance before the song’s crescendo. Possibly one of the better songs on the album.
“Carry Me Home” is a little uneven, with Wessels soon assuming a more pop/rock vocal style, a little reminiscent of Cher that might suit her, but sounds a little weird within the context of the song (which again has that dude from Van Canto assuming male vocals) and the album’s flow. While the melodies and the chorus aren’t bad, it feels a bit like someone pasted a pretty decent song from another project, as it’s a lot happier that the average song on the album.
“The Sound of Fear” marks a return to forms that seem more appropriate, but while it’s intro is sorrowful, again its mid-section is mysteriously cheerful in a way, that makes it a little too different. Again there’s a tiny bit of “Steinman” tactics.
“Novaturient” is initially pretty much reprising the acoustic fragility of “Incomplete”, but goes ape-shit symphonic after a piano part with Oliver belting out, and turns into a quite beautiful symphonic and triumphant piece, complete with a nice solo in the middle and a quite convincing chorus.
“Let It Die” is another duet, between the two, which this time works much better, despite the song, not having an evident direction as it swings between elegy and symphonic triumphant false-codas, that never quite reach a proper crescendo.
Coming in a variety of formats, jewel case, a 100 page media book, or an exclusive 3 CD earbook that contains the album’s story on audiobook format, Phantasm’s debut is not a bad effort in what it tries to achieve, but can at times feel like a little overbearing and missing the point. I’m not exactly sure how exactly to describe it, as it transcends a lot of specific genres, but I believe if people like Wessel’s vocals and don’t mind a soft symphonic rock/metal that occasionally might get it’s claws out, they won’t be disappointed. It clearly shows that this is a labor of love by those involved, I’m just not quite sure, if they had established the proper chemistry before attempting it. A second helping, might help us decide…