The Phantom Agony



by Dreamflight USER (4 Reviews)
September 11th, 2010 | 14 replies

Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The foundations of one of the leading female fronted metal bands of nowdays.

The 21st century came with the boom of the female fronted metal bands. Inspired by the works of The Gathering, Theater of Traggedy, Orphanage, among others, thousands of bands with a chick on the mic all of a sudden assaulted the metal scene.
Among them were a dutch band called After Forever. Somehow, this new fashion proved to be either benefic and destructive for the band, even though they took advantage of the current conjecture to achieve some popularity, most of the press and metal fans never truly understood their true personality, most of the times labeling them as the new nightwish or tristania clone. And that was the beginning of a very troubled way that sadly ended in 2008 with their demise.

One of the many crises within the band took place in 2002, when guitarist and cofounder Mark Jansen, suddenly felt out of place, and left the band to focus on his own ideas. After gathering his new band mates, Mark called his band Sharah Dust, however inspired by the name of Kamelot’s 6th album, he later renamed them Epica.

And their debut album couldn’t be better. Even though the name may sound kind of powermetalish, there’s very little of power metal to be found in The Phantom Agony. Drums are in the vein of After Forever, which means varied enough to keep it interesting, the bass makes its job done, and the guitars are basically rhythmic and to be frank, the least attractive part of Epica. On the vocals we have the new immerging talent of Simone Simmons, with a mezzo-soprano voice that would appeal to Tarja’s fans, Mark’s occasionally screams and grunts, and a classical choir. But what really shine on this record are the lush orchestral and keyboard parts. Considering the fact that Mark has no classical background it is quite an achievement.

In terms of composition, there is indeed a very epic and sometimes Arabic feel, thanks to the orchestrations and choir. Nevertheless there’s this brutality coming from the crunchy guitars, speedy drums and Mark’s screams that makes a great contrast. On track Run for a Fall, this is quite evident, since the song starts off like a ballad, and in the middle we have aggression, followed by orchestral arrangements, and ending again in a ballad way. On Seif al Din we have the opposite, some metal riffage attack that would make you headbang like no fu*** tomorrow, with a string section in the middle.

But the track that really stands out it’s the title track. This “epic” journey, clocking around 9 minutes, has it all. Beautifully arranged string sections in the beginning and end, lead choirs that would give you goosebumps, tempo changes and the winning chorus sung by Simone.

Lyrically speaking, it’s what you would expect from Mark Jensen, philosophical questions, religion criticism (both Christendom and Islam), and a very ferocious attack on After Forever’s lead singer Floor Jansen, which makes you think of how awful the ambient was within the band back in the days. He later apologized nevertheless.

All in all a very strong debut album.

user ratings (235)
other reviews of this album
TPM731 (2)
A record with a lot of potential that simply fails to deliver....

Comments:Add a Comment 
September 11th 2010


"some metal riffage attack that would make you headbang like no fu*** tomorrow"

Your whole review sounded good except for that one fragment and a couple spelling errors, tight review though.

September 11th 2010


Yes! An Epica review!

September 11th 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

"Your whole review sounded good except for that one fragment and a couple spelling errors, tight review though."

Now that I'm reading the whole thing again, that part sounded kinda lame and out of place. :/

Thanks for the compliments. ;)

August 22nd 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

I think this is Epica's strongest album. It's relatively short and it's concise. The orchestrations aren't overdone and every track is strong.

August 22nd 2011


"Design Your Universe" was fun...but I need to get into the mood for stuff like this...:]

Contributing Reviewer
January 22nd 2012


Album Rating: 4.5

This epica's most underrated album, though it still has a lot of classics in their discography.

Digging: (EchO) - Below the Cover of Clouds

February 25th 2013


Album Rating: 3.0

Although simone hates listening to this album, i still do

April 27th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5

Yes. Simone don't like her voice in this album. I don't know what to say.. just "women".

Their best album. Great orchestration and lyrics and not commercial like their last two albums.

April 27th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5

Dude, commercial?? just because DYU and RftI have a couple of easy listening tracks, it doesn't mean they've become commercial. I mean one could argue that Feint and Sensorium have their share of easy music too, right?

But yeah I agree with this being their best album, but it's Simone's worst imo, I don't even like her voice here.

April 30th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5

Ok. I was wrong.Not commercial. But more catsy melodies. You know, when I talk about Epica I always think about medieval orchestration , a little bit gothic lyrics etc.

We disagree here.. I don't like Simone's voice as much as I used to.Especially in RFTI. I think that's her worst album performance.. too much vibrato.

May 2nd 2013


Album Rating: 4.5

And I understand that, as I also miss the orchestrations, but if anything I think they've come more progressive, with a little bit of those catchy melodies you mentioned.

Well tbh I'm not really familiar with those technical terms, all I know is her voice nowadays has much more emotion and warmth than before, at least to my ears.

February 25th 2015


Album Rating: 4.0


August 22nd 2016


Album Rating: 3.5

The guitar riffs and tone is a massive turn off for me, sadly it's like this until "Design Your Universe" when more technicality (plus production) was introduced.

I also found the clarinet (if that's what it is) that is being played over the growling parts of "Cry For The Moon" unnecessarily distracting, it just felt out of place. You don't really need some happy clappy chocobo tune being played over heavy riffs and death growls.

August 22nd 2016


The growls on this album are abhorrent dogshit, meh this album.

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