Monday, December 08, 2008

The Fall Of Troy - Phantom On The Horizon

Equal Vision Records


Phantom On The Horizon was supposed to be The Fall of Troy's magnum opus. It was supposed to be the definitive post-hardcore release of 2008. It was supposed to be Illmatic, Ready To Die, London Calling, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence. It was supposed to be.

But somewhere, between the heart and the synapse, something was lost.

Something, somewhere. It is this vagueness that troubles me - I don't know where exactly Phantom falls short. I just know for a fact that it does.

Phantom's definitely grown on me - when I first heard the CD, my only thought was "Thank God I didn't pay money for this". But with repeated listens, the criticism softened as I came to the realization that many of these shortcomings are self-made; that is, they're my fault, a product of lofty expectations and almost a half decade of hype.

In case you weren't aware, the "scene" has been waiting for this album ever since the Ghostship Demos EP was released in 2004. The disc was phenomenal, a four track tour de force that successfully fused the abrasive shriek-core of The Fall Of Troy with the outer space weirdness of The Mars Volta. 2005's Doppelganger saw one of the four tracks ("Macaulay McCulkin") given proper release, but the other three were left to stew for another couple of years, as Thomas Erak & Co tweaked with the sound little by little before finally committing them to tape in October of this year.

This stretch of time proved to be Phantom On The Horizon's biggest undoing. To somebody listening to Phantom On The Horizon with virgin ears, this is not immediately noticeable. But having picked apart the Ghostship Demos for the last four years, it is quite easy to see where The Fall Of Troy went wrong on the three Ghostship tracks ("I", "IV", and "V"). The changes are small and lie mostly in the arrangements, but they're crucial.

The main offenders are the swaps made by Erak from shrieking to clean vocals. Often a singer's voice will grow with time, as he becomes more comfortable and relaxed with his craft. Thom Erak has done the complete opposite, as his voice has gone downhill with each release since Doppelganger. For example, the chorus of "IV" as heard on Ghostship was a furious whirlwind of brutal screaming. Here, it's sung in a grating, nasal tone, and completely changes the tone of things. A small substitution, granted, but this makes a huge difference.

It's not all bad - Erak's guitar prowess is as mind-blowing as ever, and Andrew Forsman's drum technique has finally matured. Always a weak point of the band, the percussion on Phantom are technically proficient, providing the first capable rhythmic counterpoint in their career. Tim Ward's replacement Frank Black goes unnoticed, and I'm still not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

To make things overtly complicated, I would like to give this album two different ratings. To everybody weaned on the Ghostship Demos, I award Phantom On The Horizon an underwhelming 4/10 - stick with Ghostship, or face imminent disappointment. As for the rest of you, that little bold number at the top stands - 7/10.

Key Tracks:


  1. I think you're a retard

  2. phantom is a much more refined sound and better than the demos for the quality upgrade alone. as far as enter the black demon goes, = i like the singing better than the screaming, its more in time with the music and flat out sounds better. to each his own i guess.

  3. I agree with you man.
    The screaming was way better.
    And I outright hate part 3.

    I really liked how Thomas would often do that bit at the end of The Walls Bled Lust at the end of live performances... but I think that putting it into the recording was a bad decision.

    The last show I saw them at they played a song that Thomas said would be on their next album. It was terrible. I actually left the room and came back after for Sledgehammer.

    Anyways... great review.


  4. thanks man, i think we're in the minority. and as for the second anonymous up there, you make a fair point.

  5. everything they've come out with since their Self Titled and Ghostship Demos has been shit, in my opinion. so i will probably never listen to this album. thanks for a good review though.

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