Review Summary: Phantom on the Horizon demonstrates an amount of passion, flow and technicality previously unexplored by the band.
The Fall of Troy is one of those bands which never stop progressing, and each change can be traced back throughout their discography with relative ease. It all started with the raw and aggressive self-titled; this explosive piece of post-hardcore showcased the band and impressed the pants off everyone who listened. Quickly following in a sophomore swirl of blistering riffs, tight jeans and scene girls was Doppelgänger
, which managed to throw the band into the limelight with its new found hooks and pop sensibility (and F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X). Manipulator
came next, and although it still encompassed the integral elements of their overall sound, the new blues influence and a horrible production contributed to a lack-luster performance and it left many fans disappointed. Thank God for Phantom on the Horizon.
The Seattle trios’ fourth effort comes at a perfect time; being a re-recording of the legendry Ghostship Demos
, it boasts a familiar track list for longtime listeners and some significant improvements on the original cuts. The song structures remain mostly unaltered with the main melodies and guitar riffs left in tact, although the further progression of Thomas Eraks’ singing voice has inevitably rubbed off on his vocal delivery in places. His more melodic, almost scat-like style displayed on Manipulator can be found in several spots across the record, often replacing screamed lines to varying success. "Chapter V" already supported a more technical vocal melody and benefits greatly from the new approach, whilst the half-sung half-rapped chorus in "Chapter IV" just sounds awkwardly out of place and has a real impact on the intensity of the song. Erak has also developed a knack for harmonies, often layering his voice to nice effect.
Not so obvious are the subtle changes and additions to the instrumental parts. New bassist Frank Black has stepped up to the plate with his first release, and outshines many of the old lines with much more interesting and varied parts; the second half of "Chapter III" showcases his funky finger style and compliments the music perfectly. Andrew Forsman again impresses with his incredible drumming, fitting different sections of each song with improved rhythms and new fills. Also accompanying the regular instruments are the previously unheard glockenspiel and string parts that often provide counter-melodies or simply create a thicker, more textured sound. Guitar effects are used for similar purposes, although are applied a bit too frequently and unnecessarily hamper the music at times.
The biggest influence on Phantom on the Horizon
is the story itself. The tale of demons, ships and ghosts is expressed through the music in both atmospheric and lyrical devices, and the concept helps form a wonderfully smooth transition from each track through the record. Instrumental sections at the end of every song bridge each track to the next without making the music homogeneous, and often winds down the mood in preparation for the next shift in tempo, sound and emotion. There is a depth to these songs which the other albums lack and it greatly improves the overall quality and replayability of the music itself; each listen reveals intricacies previously overlooked and eventually allows you to piece together the whole disconcerting fable contained within. There is no better example of this then towards the end of "Chapter I", as Erak desperately screams through shimmering tremolo picking and shattering drums:
"As this ship is going down/I look upon the captain’s frown/I see a face of a broken man."
Phantom on the Horizon
demonstrates an amount of passion, flow and technicality previously unexplored by the band. Although the production is somewhat questionable, it gives the songs a thick and full sound that they need to convey the story accurately. It’s dark and serious at times and playful in others, but the sense of fun, experimentation and enjoyment from the old days once again integrates itself into the songs and is ever-present throughout the entire 40 minutes. This was an album facing unsurmountable hype, and damn, it's done pretty well. Yet for The Fall of Troy it's all about the future; they sure aren't looking back, and neither should you.