Review Summary: Phantom on the Horizon bodes well for the future, provided [The Fall of Troy] realise they can’t please everyone all of the time.
For many, The Fall of Troy’s “Ghostship Demos” represented a band that looked like they could go nowhere but up. After the release of a self titled debut which was slightly raw and rough around the edges, the Ghostship Demos represented a band who were comfortable with their part post-hardcore, part prog image; exhibiting the same levels of technicality as their debut, but with a little more restraint and the same rawness of a band with a huge amount of potential. Sadly, they’ve never really fulfilled that potential, with their second album, “Doppelganger” suffering a peculiar breed of the dreaded sophomore slump; sure, it was a good album, but it was, for the most part, a reworking of their debut. The effect was much like replacing double glazed windows with single; it still worked, but it did nowhere near as good a job of showcasing the ability that Erak and co. had in abundance. 3rd album “Manipulator” didn’t do a great on this front either, one of its best cuts being “Semi-Fiction”, originally written as part 7 of the demos.
From the outside looking in, and with the slow and steady drop in the quality of the bands releases since the Ghostship Demos, now would probably not be seen as the optimum time to re-record the demos that, arguably, best define them and their prospective ability. Such a thought may cross the mind during the reworked guitar intro section to “Part 1”, or rather, Chapter 1: Introverting Dimensions
, which sounds like the entrance to a nightmarish carnival before descending into the all out guitar-led chaos that's become a staple of the band's sound, and manages to improve on almost all fronts. However, one of the most evident problem – and it crops up throughout the EP – is the ill-advised decision to replace some of the screaming vocals with clean ones; the result of which tends to rob the EP of much of the intensity of the originals – and that’s without mentioning Thomas’s clean vocals sounding like a poor man’s Claudio Sanchez.
Amongst the problems is the production, which succeeds in all but masking much of Frank Black and Andrew Forsman’s respective bass and drum work much of the time. This in itself is a crying shame, as Forsman is more than capable drummer - as shown in the drum solo at the end of Chapter 3: Nostalgic Mannerisms
- who succeeds in adding an extra dimension to the band’s sound. The same can’t really be said on a consistent basis for Black, whose basswork, where heard over the abhorrent production quality regularly see-saws between brilliant and boring. That aside there is a real tightness between Black and Forsman as a rhythm section.
Where the band cannot be faulted is in the quality of the screaming vocals. Whilst they seem to be becoming fewer and more far between, the quality of them has far improved on Erak’s part even since Manipulator. It is, quite frankly, mystifying as to why the screaming’s been toned down when Erak time and again proves that he’s a far better screamer than a singer. Frank Black proves he has a fairly powerful set of lungs, and manages to bring a real sinister growling quality to what were Tim’s parts.
Where “Phantom on the Horizon” really trips itself up however, is in the transitions between songs. While the idea itself is a solid one, the execution leaves something to be desired. Added to the slightly disjointed nature of the middle part of the disk, which, despite the best of efforts, doesn’t seem to “flow”, leaves “Phantom on the Horizon” not really knowing whereabouts in its own story it seems to be.
“Phantom on the Horizon” is perhaps a victim of its own natural predecessor’s success, with some much expectation due to a solid base to build from, and roughly four years to so. At the very least, it’s a reminder that The Fall of Troy haven’t yet lost their teeth, something which bodes well for the future, provided they realise they can’t please everyone all of the time.