I love that I’ve written so much about avant-garde music lately that I don’t have to once again start with an intro about how weird of a genre it is. The Lychgate review I recently wrote is a pretty good summary of how I feel about the moniker. Actually, referring to that review is a statement about avant-garde in and of itself since there’s little in common between that album and the band we have in mind today, Ghostbound. The first has more black metal on it and a lot more abrasiveness, whereas Ghostbound’s All is Phantom draws more on the epic nature of progressive rock and the dramatic thrill of bands like Marillion. But it also layers those ideas on top of frequent blast beats, prominent strings, thick guitars and much more that comes from metal and its approach to the avant-garde. In short, it’s a wild ride of an album which leaves us beggared for an exact definition.
In such cases, the best thing to do is focus on one prominent element and start unraveling the mystery from there. In this case, there’s no doubt about where to start; the vocals of one Alec A. Head (who also does guitars for the album) immediately leap out at you and grab you. On opening track “The Gallivanter” they present perhaps their most over the top and pronounce aspect, full bodied clarion calls which crackle proudly in the crags above varied drum work, strings and tremolo picked guitars. Later in the album, they’ll take on a quality more akin to the by now legendary styling of Marillion and the “noir-like” narration of Steve Hogarth. These further contribute to the off kilter and unique vibe of the album, often choosing extremely odd places and tones within which to join the other instruments.
Add in plenty of choir moments, whose presence on “The Wildest of Rivers” for example reminds us of Motorpsycho, a wealth of ideas from progressive metal and rock and post punk (where the Motorpsycho comparison becomes pertinent again) and you get All is Phantom. Which is to say, you get an incredible intricate and hard to approach album but one which will definitely reward you for your efforts. It took me a few listens to “get” what this album was trying to do and it was a hard road getting there. But once I embraced the eccentric presentation of the vocals, and the bits and pieces from black metal, prog rock and more strewn all over the place, I started to immensely enjoy it. It’s definitely one of the more unique albums I’ve had the pleasure of listening to lately; don’t deprive yourself of it.