Review Summary: Despite the loss of a crucial band member, Limbonic Art manages to surprise their audience with incredible work.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Limbonic Art was the project of 2 masterminds, under the names of Morfeus and Daemon. For all of the significant life of Limbonic Art they have been the only members of the project that play in symphonic black metal style. The band disbanded in 2002 due to lack of musical ideas, but then reformed in 2006. That was until 2009 when Morfeus unexpectedly left the band due to a dispute, leaving the whole project on the shoulders of the sole remaining member Daemon. Before Phantasmagoria was released, there were many rumours that Limbonic Art would shift into a more traditional black metal band which thankfully is not the case here. Daemon has dedicated a significant amount of time and effort into Phantasmagoria and has displayed much quality and musicianship, keeping many of the elements that made other albums interesting.
The production of the work loves to dwindle between clear and a rough, raw, distorted one. There are parts of songs which would lose part of their magic if it weren’t for the fact that the background fuzz is kept at a controlled level. The distortion and production is enough to tell what is going on in the guitars, keyboards and vocals most of the time, as well as the drums. It mostly changes during certain verses when the guitars really add much distortion and act as a wall of sound, a technique that serves the album quite well. The wall of noise will also be a pleasant surprise to most black metal fans, but for those that want a perfect production it will cause irritation. But actually the main attraction to the album is how the element of repetition is used meticulously, most prominently by the guitars and keyboard. At times, they mirror their melodies, such as in the opener, “Prologue/Phantasmagoria.” The vocals are primarily distant black metal shrieks (similar to Summoning), always kept in check by the other instruments. They act as another instrument, another layer of complexity in the music. At all times they keep a constant mid-paced speed, even if the songs become faster. The effect this causes in the music is keeping a constant speed mediator that continues to give the songs another layer of melody and attention.
There are other times when the keyboards take an atmospheric role instead and simply add an eerie vibe. For this type of music to actually work, there needs to be a very strong keyboard input to actually push the limits of the music, yet keep it within the raw constraints of the production. There is a very thin line of balance that keeps the volume of the keyboards with those of the guitar, during which the keyboards still play throughout most of the album, yet do not overpower or take a leading role. In “Crypt of Bereavement”, there is a part where the keyboards simply play their own symphony and keep the rest of the music going. Overall, the leading instrument here would be the guitars, mostly playing fast and crushing riffs with plentiful distortion. One of the most enjoyable moments occurs in the song Portal to the Unknown, where the guitar riffs really add an interesting input and drive the song to oblivion. The keyboards are still majestic, playing the same quality of melodies since their debut, Moon in the Scorpio. Never do the keyboards have a sense of grandeur, pretentiousness or even mockery; they add a much needed hole that would otherwise make the album less captivating. Their repetition serves a great part in maintaining the albums latent, but present psychedelic vibe. The slower songs of the album are also an incredible addition; they completely show off the softer, yet creepier side of Limbonic Art, like in the songs “Dark Winds” and “A Black Sphere of Serenity”. I would even go as far as saying that these types of tracks are the most special kind to be found in Phantasmagoria, although most songs contain at least one slow part or two.
The main downfall of Phantasmagoria would be how much the album is non-dynamic in the sense that many songs portray many of the same elements, and the overall feeling and atmosphere is constant. While this is something that has always been present in the bands discography, and most usually a positive for listeners of the band, there are times when repetition reaches a certain limit of attention. At about 70 minutes in length, and 12 songs between 5 to 8 minutes, most people will have a hard time sitting through the whole record in one listen. In addition, as the album reaches heavier parts, some of the dark vibe is partially lost in the music, but this happens rather infrequently. While many will prefer having more material of almost equal quality, those who need something that changes genre and direction often will be left on the simplistic side of Limbonic Art. Phantasmagoria isn’t an album that has much technicality or complexity, but achieves its goal with simpler, yet carefully chosen elements. Quite enjoyable from start to finish, it is hard to believe this was composed by only one person.