ALBUM REVIEW: Immortal’s Requiem – Phantom Spell

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Having teased listeners with a lone single last year, PHANTOM SPELL have returned to deliver on the proggy promise of the tantalising Keep On Running. The band itself is effectively a one-man outfit, born from the mind of SEVEN SISTERS frontman and guitarist Kyle McNeill. In contrast to the metallically informed stylings of SEVEN SISTERS however, PHANTOM SPELL sees McNeill dive headfirst in to the world of 70s prog instead. Indeed, once the choral synths kick in on the introductory titular track, there is very little doubt that Immortal’s Requiem and PHANTOM SPELL stand firmly outside the shadow of its sister band stylistically.

As it fades, Immortal’s Requiem seamlessly drifts in to Dawn Of Mind, a lengthy and bold musical statement that sees PHANTOM SPELL setting the tone. Somehow encompassing interstellar atmospherics, bluesy licks and twirling guitar-versus-synth duels, Dawn Of Mind ebbs and flows between high energy classic rock and restrained, haunting ambience. When it reaches its crescendo, Dawn Of Mind feels part ELO and part GARY MOORE before returning to its disarmingly catchy chorus. In turn, it paves the way for an album teeming with unexpected musical turns and carefully curated chaos.

Almost immediately, Seven Sided Mirror doubles down on the twists. Its opening riffs are discordant, mimicking the off-kilter melodies of CARDIACS as if channelled through YES. Similarly, Up The Tower effortlessly flits between intense urgency and joyous guitar harmonies at the drop of a hat. Both numbers eventually see their bedlam dissipate, giving way to soaring vocal melodies and warm guitars that walk a border between downhearted and epic. Immortal’s Requiem’s most traditional moment comes with the comparatively mellow instrumental Black Spire Curse. Opening with baroque-infused clavichord synths and spiralling guitars, the piece flirts with both neoclassical motifs and jazz-fusion throughout. Its respite is short-lived however, eventually building in to a fiery explosion of thundering, Hammond-augmented riffs and sky-high guitar leads.

Closing the album is the opus Blood Becomes Sand. An overall slower and more deliberate number than most of the album, its initial ballad-like sway sets a suitably sombre tone to end on. However, PHANTOM SPELL’s penchant for meticulously managed mayhem eventually seeps through. The track shifts gears for its climax, dabbling in early IRON MAIDEN-tinged riffery and morose, mounting guitar leads.

Immortal’s Requiem is a short and sweet affair, clearly putting the emphasis on quality over quantity – and it certainly has qualities in abundance. One of PHANTOM SPELL’s strongest suits is their approach to guitar throughout. Never needlessly flashy yet always mesmerising, the constant onslaught of bluesy licks and harmonised leads are Immortal’s Requiem’s driving force, ensuring the album brims with electric energy. It would also be remiss not to mention McNeill’s vocals which, between emotive deliveries and earworm hooks, tie together the material across the album. There’s a Phil Lynott-esque smoothness to McNeill’s voice that, coupled with a strong performance, gives PHANTOM SPELL a welcome extra warmth and resonance.

Beyond the album proper, certain editions of Immortal’s Requiem are coupled with two bonus tracks; a faithful rendition of RORY GALLAGHER’s Moonchild, which shows a strong influential link for PHANTOM SPELL, and an amped up version of the project’s debut single, Keep On Running. Both are an enjoyable insight in to what has shaped Immortal’s Requiem, but aren’t essential.

Overall, Immortal’s Requiem is a loving ode to prog’s historical greats. Yet, while taking heavy influence from them, PHANTOM SPELL manage to put their own spin on the genre as a whole. Between its musical unpredictability and McNeill’s strong sense of melody, Immortal’s Requiem balances anxious joy with sombre melancholy throughout. The result is the musical equivalent of cosmic dread, all delivered with remarkable confidence and vigour.

Rating: 8/10

Immortal's Requiem - Phantom Spell

Immortal’s Requiem is set for release on August 19th via Wizard Tower Records.

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