Marianas Trench
Phantoms


3.0
good

Review

by Beaker1975 USER (1 Reviews)
March 8th, 2019 | 10 replies


Release Date: 03/01/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I can see a glimmer...

If I’m going to write a review about a Marianas Trench album, it would be irresponsible of me not to establish that I carry a great deal of sentiment towards the band, especially its 2015 release Astoria. That record, themed after 80's adventure movies, became the soundtrack to an adventure of my own; In the fall of 2015, I left college and my sophomore slump behind to go play bass Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Traverse City, MI for a month. The 7-hour drive up was also my first chance to listen to Astoria in its entirety, and it has now irreversibly become a nostalgia trap for me. It's fitting, too. Reviewers have cited the album's err.. willingness.. to borrow some of its content from the popular music of the late-70's to early 80's, which is shamelessly my favorite era of pop music's history.

With Phantoms there are thematic and theatrical elements at play, as is to be expected from the Canadian Pop Rockers on this their 5th full-length LP. The theme this time around is, as I understand it, the way that love, or lost love, can at times feel supernatural and/or paranormal. The song titles, like "Your Ghost" and "Echoes Of You" are a bit heavy-handed, but I was actually pretty excited for a ham-fisted Black Parade-esque foray into some darker territories. The first three tracks of the record execute this pretty well, and I'll keep things short by saying tracks 1-5 of this album are really quite excellent pieces of the extravagant, bombastic pop music we've come to except from Marianas Trench. While Astoria was a love letter back to the days of Michael Jackson, Prince, Queen and Whitney, Phantoms finds itself much more grounded in 2019.

By this, I mean that there are five songs in a row that utilize very similar song structure. What was so appealing about Marianas Trench's songwriting was their willingness to have wordy hooks. Hell, even their song making fun of pop songs had more words than a lot of these choruses here. For five consecutive tracks on Phantoms, you have your verse, pre-chorus, and then the hook is basically a (very tastefully produced) synth driven instrumental with the title of the song thrown in there every four bars. I'm not here to dunk on contemporary songwriting, but these tracks feel a bit same-y, and while songs like the midtempo "Don't Miss Me" and na-na filled "Wish You Were Here" work well with their own unique flair, the following three tracks feel quite disposable. On what basically amounts to a nine song album (opener "Eleanora" is 68 seconds), that's a bummer.

"Glimmer" serves as the true ballad of the album. It's a similar tempo and style to Astoria's "One Love", and the comparisons don't stop there. The two songs aren't copies of one another, but they're fair to compare, and "One Love" is one of the weaker songs on its album. I'll say I prefer "Glimmer", but that could easily be recency bias. The "I Knew You When", the first track released from the record back in late 2018, has a few nice things happening in the production of its house-pop beat, namely the low-pitched horn stabs in the chorus, but ultimately feels too made-for-radio and not enough like it adheres to the once-gleefully silly scope of the band's discography. "Your Ghost" is the most uninteresting track the band has released since its debut album. Josh Ramsay's vocals have never sounded more exposed, and that's difficult to do. He's a supreme talent, and it hurts to hear his voice done so little justice on such a boring arrangement.

"Echoes of You", however, is anything but boring, it's an absolutely audacious, epic, fist-pumping banger with a welcome guest appearance by Jellyfish's Roger Manning Jr. "Only The Lonely Survive" will gladly accept its invitation to join the many pop anthems the group has accumulated over the years. Penultimate track "The Death of Me" features some of the best, most nuanced lyrical content from Ramsay as well as some truly excellent vocal effect work by Ramsay and the mixing team.

This brings us to the finale, "The Killing Kind", which somehow manages to be one of the best songs in the band's catalog while also simultaneously being hugely disappointing. For the two records preceding this one, the closers "No Place Like Home" and "End of an Era", of Ever After and Astoria felt like they should have: grandiose, cathartic finales to musical journeys that left me feeling immensely satisfied. Perhaps it's an indictment on the latter half of the album that "The Killing Kind" feels thoroughly unearned, and even more unfortunate, inauthentic. While "The Killing Kind" checks all the ambitiously bonkers boxes, it feels as though the band believed they had sent me through another Ever After or Astoria, when in reality I'd just been mostly enjoying some higher quality Chainsmokers-derivative modern pop music from one of my favorite bands. Ultimately Phantoms is 15 minutes shorter than Astoria but somehow manages to feel more like a tale of two halves fighting one another. It's tracks 1,2,3,9, and 10 taking on the rest. Luckily, we can each pick our favorite. I think I know where I stand.


user ratings (28)
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
March 8th 2019


10120 Comments


Not too bad my man. Sometimes it feels as though points are glossed over without much detail, but the writing itself is solid. I think it'd be better to elaborate more on why certain songs fail, particularly.

A few technical issues and some odd phrasing; a lot of that is just a read-through away from adjusting. The last sentence definitely comes across as unnecessary--I'd retool it or simply cut it out entirely.

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
March 8th 2019


8175 Comments


This album was really boring for me until the last track, which is seriously incredible. Will give it a few more listens and see if I feel differently tho

Digging: Common Holly - When I say to you Black Lightning

Beaker1975
March 9th 2019


3 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks very much for the feedback, MarsKid! The toughest part for me was trying to still make clear that I thought the album was overall good. There's way more to talk about with the bad, while the good sort of spoke for itself. Thanks for the insight. I, unlike the band, have no idea how to end my work.

Observer
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2019


7125 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

its a lot better than astoria



Digging: Caracara - Summer Megalith

veninblazer
March 9th 2019


10169 Comments


Quite a bit of this didn't catch me the way Masterpiece Theatre did. The Killing Kind is what I wish this whole thing sounded like.

Digging: Dayseeker - Sleeptalk

Beaker1975
March 10th 2019


3 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

@Ponton, that's interesting. I think there are 4-5 songs on Astoria that would be one of the top 3 tracks on this one. To each their own, but I thought Astoria was a more diverse pop-rock album.



@Deathbat, I 10000% agree. The Killing Kind mostly hypes me up but also kinda bums me out. If the whole record were of the same vein as Echoes of You and The Killing Kind... the Edgar Allen Poe/Stephen King stuff rules

Observer
Staff Reviewer
March 12th 2019


7125 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

i just think they took their ideas from Ever After, an album which i do really like, onto Astoria and went way too over board. I liked how they reigned it in more here.

Beaker1975
March 12th 2019


3 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

@Ponton.. cool. It's definitely reigned in, and maybe Astoria does get a bit overzealous. I do think this is the most grounded they've been since Fix You. Masterpiece Theatre had some straightforward pop-punk songs but with those bookends and sort-of intermission. If this album were Ever After (which I also really like) but with the paranormal theme, I'd have loved that.

dmathias52
March 17th 2019


969 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I actually like this a lot more than I expected to from the singles. I hope one day these guys really let loose and release the crazy album I think they're capable of. And that's coming from someone who loves their first two.

Digging: Stuck Out Here - Until We're Each Someone Else

disciple31
April 14th 2019


18 Comments


feel like this band could crank out a real banger but they never quite get it right

i also think josh could write solid music for a broadway show or some shit like that where he has a concept already made for him



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