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Phantasma - The Deviant Hearts

Phantasma – CD Review
The Deviant Hearts

Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts


CD Info
Napalm Records
12 Tracks 1 Bonus Track
English Lyrics


It is always a joy when great performers from different symphonic metal bands join together to start and finish a special project. Such is the case for The Deviant Hearts, a rock musical/opera created by three superstars. This album will touch the listener on so many levels. It is emotional, with superb musicianship, both instrumental and vocal, and really left me breathless at time. This is symphonic metal music at its best and with the story line; it comes to life in a beautiful, unique way. There is so much energy, starting from the simple beginning, that the listener is kept literally on the edge of their seat, until the conclusion.

Phantasma, as a project, began with Georg Neuhauser’s (Serenity) dream of a musical story that he developed and knew that his band would not be able to perform. He was able to enlist the help of Oliver Philipps (Everon), who was able to reconnect with being a musician. Oliver, who worked with the Dutch band Delain, brought Charlotte Wessels on board, who also wrote a novella for the project. The three stars, in their own right, collaborated to produce this album. In addition, drummer Jason Gianni (Daredevil Squadron, Neal Morse Band, TransSiberian Orchestra) and bassist Randy George (Neal Morse Band, Ajalon) were added. Another instrumentalist added is Tom Buchberger (ex-Serenity). Additional vocalists include Tom Englund (Evergrey), Dennis Schunke (Van Canto), and Cloe Lowery (TransSiberian Orchestra). The beautiful cover artwork and illustrations were conceived by Marco Mazzoni from Milan.

”Incomplete” opens the album and sets up the story which unfolds to the listener. Starting with a simple keyboard playing the melody, Charlotte enters adding lyrics from a female child that lets the listener know that what we are told is not always what it seems. The second verse has George singing over the keyboard accompaniment, inserting the male child’s perspective. Both of them sing the third verse together as the song ends with the sound of fireworks. Some lyrics include:

When I was a young girl
my father said to me
Life is nothing like a grand symphony
It’s like when you know this one line
Sing it, and repeat
But you don’t recall the rest of the song
It’s incomplete
Well you can spend your whole life
trying to recall
Or enjoy the sound you’ve known
Oh the words and the melody
Don’t they taste sweet
why would you go and chase
Bigger dreams?

The second song is “The Deviant Hearts,” which is also the title of the album. Once again, the keys are prominent in the opening along with the acoustic guitar. The two intertwine nicely before giving way to the guitar. The heavier rock sound enters via the drums and keys leading up to the vocalists. Tom Englund is featured as the male vocalist opposite of Charlotte. Charlotte and a light chorus perform the chorus. George also has a part in the second verse and during this time, the steady rock beat continues. After the second chorus, the song takes a Middle Eastern sound that starts in the keys, gives way to a distorted guitar, before an extended guitar solo takes over. Over the drums and guitar, we hear the keys playing the melody. This leads back to chorus again and ends with the Middle Eastern sound. Some lyrics from this song include:

Give us a story
Narrate all places
That we’ll never see
Give us a haven
For our imagination
So at least in our minds
We can attempt to be free

“Runaway Gray” shows the emotional capabilities of Charlotte. She expresses through the vocals the pain that a mother feels when faced with making a choice that will allow her child to survive. Her voice matches the lyrics as she expresses the pain and hope that she is making the right decision. A keyboard accompaniment provides the thin texture at the beginning with drums added. A string ensemble sound thickens the texture a little while enhances the emotion of the lyrics. The second part of the song has a more forceful sound to it which the lyrics point out. Lyrics to this song include:

I’ve seen the end, It’s pretty grim
My many warnings won’t get through to him
I’ll try to take all our misfortune with me
He won’t understand, but surely he’ll forgive me

Probably the most painful song for me to hear is the song “Try.” This song is so raw emotionally and that is expressed both vocally and instrumentally. The texture of the song is very thin instrumentally with just a piano and vocal in the beginning. The drum is added to the second verse but maintains the same texture. The lyrics are so emotional with the frustration and hopelessness and the two vocalists are superb in their expression. Cloe Lowery, who is well known for her vocal abilities, shines on this song. Also equal to the task as the male vocalist is Dennis Schunke. The song ends with the machine sounds associated with a hospital and the very end is the lone heartbeat. The lyrics include:

Look at yourself
Sitting and waiting
Look at your days
Wasting away
Where can you go?
And what scares you so?
And why does every moment
Make this feeling grow?

“Enter Dreamscape” opens with an acoustic guitar playing the melody against an ostinato played on the keys. This gives way to a heavier electric guitars and drums and leads into the vocals, which are performed by Tom Englund. The children go on a journey following the “paper cranes,” and are represented by Charlotte’s vocals, along with a vocal chorus in the chorus. This song has some of the heavier Symphonic Metal Sound in the album. It is very driven, with the instruments, after the opening. A video with lyrics may be viewed by clicking on this link.

One really interesting song that also has a video is “Miserable Me.” This song, even though it is a deity trying to beguile the children, is one of the lighter songs. Based on the video, the musicians seem to have fun performing this song. Most notable, to me, is the piano interludes between the verses. It is interesting how the deity goes between telling how bad he is, and how harmless he is to the children. Halfway through the song, it takes a heavier metal sound in the guitar, with synthesized string providing a countermelody. This gives way to the guitar playing the melody, followed by a very nice, extended guitar solo leading to the final chorus. The video can be viewed here.

“The Lotus and the Willow” is another song where Charlotte shows the tenderness in voice. It is a well-known fact that Charlotte likes the music of Nick Cave, and this song pays homage to him in its style. Her vocals have a fragile aspect to them and the duet between her and George is excellent. The instrumental texture changes throughout the song, but the vocals bring out the emotional aspect of the song. Some lyrics include:

Like the lotus and the willow
At the river by the meadow
Come the fall she will sleep
And the willow it weeps
And like all the star-crossed lovers
Say goodbye to one another
Like the willow I weep
Like the willow I weep

George also is known for liking classic rock acts, especially Queen and Meatloaf, who are known for their great stage presence when performing. Two songs on this project pay tribute to those groups. The first one is “Crimson Course,” which opens with driving synthesized keys and a driving drum beat underneath, which leads to a guitar taking over the melody. George’s vocals are strong and shine over the instruments. This is a classic rock song which keeps building dynamically throughout the song. Charlotte’s vocals are just as strong and at times they sing together. The song brings out risks that one wants to take despite the consequences, and after Charlotte sings, there is a nice, not overly done, guitar solo. As the vocalist decides to take the risk, the vocals become stronger before ending. The other song is “Novaturient,” which starts out with more, tender vocals from George over an acoustic guitar. This leads to a duet over the same guitar. George takes over again with keys underneath. Very shortly, the song takes a more raucous sound with driving drums, heavy guitar, and keys under the vocals. There is a call and response between the guitar, drums, and keys. An extended guitar solo comes next, which leads to Charlotte’s entrance. Then there is a back and forth between her and George before they unite vocally. The ending has George singing before the instruments take over to complete the song.

“Carry Me Home” starts out with synthesized strings before the guitar enters with a wailing sound. It continues that sound with the melody. The regular guitar enters before the male vocals featuring Dennis Schunke and chorus. Then the female vocals take over briefly. An interlude is played with staccato synth strings leading into the male vocals again. In the second half of the song, the female vocals are much stronger and have an urgent feel to them. The staccato sound is repeated for a longer interlude and then the female vocals and mixed chorus end the song. This song brings out the pain associated with the children returning to the hospital as expressed in the lyrics which include:

Carry me home on the wings of the night
Carry me home may our spirits unite
Carry me home on paper wings
Carry me home like you did in my dreams
Oh carry me home tonight
Carry me home we’ve been waiting so long
Carry me home for this moment to come
Oh carry me home tonight
Carry me home to the morning light
Carry me home before you wave me Goodbye

The song, “The Sound of Fear” is a rock ballad with some heavier guitar solo thrown in. It also has a touch of cinematic flair as one can see this being performed on the stage with the cast supporting the male singer. It opens with a nice piano solo supported by the string sound leading to the male vocalist. He has a softer sound and a touch of emotional sadness. The sadness is the realization that the brother is letting his sister know that it is time for him to go. Charlotte has a smaller part in the song, but she does it very well with emotion and tenderness. She also sings a duet with George toward the end. The sadness is expressed in the following lyrics:

I will not awake
To the sound of fear
Every sound a sign
For my heart not to beat
I will not awake
I will re-appear
Any time, Anywhere,
but here

My favorite song has to be “Let It Die.” It is the grand finale to the Rock Musical and has that sound. There is a bonus track to the album, but it was not included. This song has a broad, cinematic style to it. The song has a lengthy introduction that is includes the heavy guitar playing with synthesized strings above. A distorted guitar, followed by a regular guitar, plays the melody which leads to female vocalist. Charlotte’s voice has some sadness to it as she expresses regret for what has happened to her brother. George comes in with a response to her concerns and Charlotte responds again. This leads to the chorus with the title of the song. The next verse includes a duet with the two of them at times. A vocal chorus, which includes several members, changes the style and tone of the song. Included here is an extended, well played guitar solo, which leads to the chorus singing the chorus of the song again. This part is very grandiose in style and sound. The song ends with Charlotte humming the melody of “Incomplete.” There was also a video made for this song and it can be viewed here. Some lyrics to the song include:

silent sleep, violent dreams
Sum up to silent screams
I can’t manage to block them out
Fragmented memories
tell my heart not to beat
For its pounding gets way too loud

to let it die
Let it die
deceitful friend of mine
Lift the veil and reveal all this time
Let it die
Can’t keep the truth inside
See the pain and the fear and the lies

Having been a fan of rock musicals, and including rock operas when teaching a unit on opera, this project is a pure joy for me. All the ingredients needed to be successful are included, from the plot, the instrumental and vocal music, and performers. The listener is transported to a world that is interesting to say the least, and may be painful for others. The emotions run raw at times in several of the songs and they are brought out beautifully by the vocalists. The instrumentalists are the right fit for this project and the additional vocalists brought in were given the opportunity to showcase their vocal prowess. Charlotte shows her vocal range, musically and emotionally multiple times, and it was very pleasant to hear a different side vocally of George. The third member, Oliver, continues to show his mastery instrumentally, and vocally. Anyone who is a fan of Symphonic Metal or Rock Musicals should definitely add this album to their library. For additional information on the band, please check out the following links: