Phantasma is a musical project driven by the creative vision of Georg Neuhauser (Serenity), Oliver Philipps (Everon) and Charlotte Wessels (Delain). The Deviant Hearts is a story-driven concept album based on a novella penned by Wessels herself which unfolds through the lyrics of this symphonic metal masterpiece. Often melodic, rich in grand arrangements, the album offers a flowing and moving narrative, definitely a must have for every fan of the genre.
The Deviant Hearts opens with “Incomplete”, a slow lullaby on piano, a ballad that displays all the raw power of Wessels and Philipps vocals. Sweet and mellow it eases you in the story that Phantasma is about to tell.
It’s with the guest appearance of Tom Englund (Evergrey), who performs on title-track “The Deviant Hearts” that the melodic symphonic metal momentum builds up into an epic crescendo of cinematic proportion. It has it all, hooking choruses, fantastic riffs and guitar solo, magical exotic atmospheres, soaring duets, a multitude of musical layers that transport you deeper into the story and far away from your day to day reality. This is one of my favorites from the album, I love just about everything in it.
“Runaway Gray” follows with a different tempo and a mood change. Notes of impending doom and new hopes fill this number, while the story tells of a heart filled with sorrow. I find quite interesting the change of arrangements and melodies on this one. It’s quite emotional.
“Try” is another incredible vocal performance, touching and full of passion. Chloe Lowery (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and Dennis Schunke (Van Canto) are both contributing on this song.
“Enter Dreamscape”, which was featured as one of the three videos aired ahead of the album release, is much heavier and orchestrated once you past the intro. “Miserable Me”, “The Lotus And The Willow” and “Crimson Course” follows. All these songs, which at times are bombastic, often melodic, symphonic, darker, softer, mellow are always engaging. The Deviant Hearts it’s an heartfelt emotional roller coaster.
“Carry Me Home” is my least favorite of this outstanding album, still a good song but I gladly move over to “The Sound of Fear”, another ballad that could easily be a movie soundtrack with great sing along moments and the added bonus of rather good guitar riffs.
“Novaturient” is a classic piece, the pace picks up on this one and it has all the elements of a good power symphonic tune with a fairytale feel to it.
“Let It Die” is the first song I listened to when the video was released by Napalm Records and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s all I need to set off to my very own fantasy world never to be seen again. I love the duets with Phillips, the choruses, the medieval touch, the rocking parts, the cinematic grandeur, the virtuosity on the guitar parts. It’s a grand and fitting end to a well crafted album.
I believe this musical project explores new territories letting out a sort of creativity that breathe freely and unbound; although much softer and melodic that my habitual metal tastes, I love its freshness. It doesn’t better the work done from the bands these musicians came from but it really benefits from the unusual merging of genres, clever production and concept idea. The album is now on rotation as I cannot get enough of it, I am discovering something new at every listen and that’s the beauty of it.
This concept-album benefited of a wealth of talent and a mean guest list for sure. Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Chloe Lowery, their drummer Jason Gianni, guitarist Tom Buchberger (Serenity) and bassist Randy George (Neal Morse Band) all provide musical backing while Dennis Schunke (Van Canto) and Tom Englund (Evergrey!) are a great fit to add interest and depth to the vocal parts. Every songs flows into the next and I find myself completely absorbed on this musical journey. I’d like to see this project flourish and grow into a more established act, I think there’s potential for even better material from these already talented and accomplished musicians.
The Deviant Hearts track listing:
02. The Deviant Hearts (Give Us A Story)
03. Runaway Grey
05. Enter Dreamscape
06. Miserable Me
07. The Lotus And The Willow
08. Crimson Course
09. Carry Me Home
10. The Sound Of Fear
12. Let It Die
13. Symphony Of Light (bonus track)
Charlotte Wessels – Vocals
Georg Neuhauser – Vocals
Oliver Philipps – Guitars/Keys/Vocals
Tom S. Englund – Vocals (Band: Evergrey)
Dennis Schunke – Vocals (Band: Van Canto)
Chloe Lowery – Vocals (Band: Trans-Siberian Orchestra/ Chameleon)
Jason Gianni – Drums (Band: Daredevil Squadron/ Neal Morse Band/ Trans-Siberian Orchestra)
Randy GeorgeBass (Band: Neal Morse Band/Ajalon)
Tom Buchberger – Guitar (Band: Ex-Serenity)
Available in various formats as: regular jewel case edition, digital download, limited edition ear-book with bonus track and 48-page booklet including the novel ‘The Deviant Hearts’ read by Charlotte Wessels, and also a limited edition six page digipack with bonus track and a hundred page booklet with the novel ‘The Deviant Hearts’.
The album showcase some stunning cover art by Milan-based artist Marco Mazzoni. He is famous for using almost exclusively colored pencils to draw fantasy scene inspired by flora, fauna and Italian folklore. The Deviant Hearts came out on the 20th November 2015 on Napalm Records. Order here.