It seems that being in one band just isn’t enough for some musicians these days. Especially within the European Power and Symphonic Metal scenes. Quite possibly two of the most (musically) incestuous genres of all, there seems to be an unwritten law that every band has to release an album featuring a bare minimum of one special guest, or contain at least two members who have performed, produced or written material for no fewer than three other bands. So it comes as no surprise to find that the first release from Phantasma, a collective effort from Charlotte Wessels (Delain), Georg Neuhauser (Serenity) and Oliver Philipps (Everon), contains performances from no less than six guest musicians. As enticing as that prospect may be to fans of the acts involved, it’s all too common for collaborations like this to end with mixed or disappointing results, and The Deviant Hearts (Napalm) is no exception.
Opening with a nice, but rather twee sounding duet from Wessels and Neuhauser, the piano played ‘Incomplete’ sounds like it would have been more at home at the end of the record rather than the beginning. Evergrey vocalist Tom Englund lends his voice to the powerful title track, and things continue in good form with ‘Runaway Gray’. Easily the best track on the album, it features a superb performance by Wessels, with more than a hint of James Bond theme song about the verses, and even a touch of Rush during the middle section.
Things take a hefty downward turn, however, with ‘Try’. A horribly overwrought ballad featuring Trans-Siberian Orchestra singer Chloe Lowery, who although clearly capable of belting out high notes with ease, seems unable to sing softly without her voice cracking on almost every line. ‘Enter Dreamscape’ is a substantial improvement on the previous track, but it’s still just standard fare which sounds like it could have been written for any band within the genre.
‘Miserable Me’ begins by slowing down and reworking the tune to ‘Money, Money, Money’ by Abba before plodding off to nowhere interesting. Duet ‘The Lotus and the Willow’ is an attempt at recreating the Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue classic ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ but falls miles short of the mark. An insipid and forgettable tune, the song only lifts off momentarily during its Top Gun-esque guitar solo. ‘Crimson Course’ is another nondescript song that sounds like it could have been written for anyone, and the only memorable thing about ‘Carry Me Home’ is the return of that Top Gun style guitar solo.
By now, everything has started to sound like music from movies and other bands, and ‘The Sound of Fear’ does nothing to change that by appearing to be several old songs at once. The upbeat ‘Novaturient’ rescues things a little until it tries to be Meat Loaf, and ‘Let It Die’ closes proceedings as best it can, but it’s essentially just another song with nothing more to offer than a reasonably strong chorus.
At its best, The Deviant Hearts is a good, listenable album with two or three memorable songs, a handful of strong choruses, and some excellent vocal performances by Wessels and Neuhauser. But for the most part, it’s just a collection of songs not strong enough to make it onto the albums of any of the bands involved.