The first thing you notice about Toronto's Under Heaven, is that they are bombastic, epic, and very symphonic. It's dramatic in how the vocals are performed.
Opener Let's Play could fit nicely on Floor Janssen's Revamp CD with its expressive and dramatic vocals. A very cool melodic yet complex solo from the bands founder and composer, Matthew Binks. Inner Demons takes you on a very melodic trip, which will remind symphonic/gothic metal fans of the Mother Earth era of Within Temptation. Tammy Everett's vocals are absolutely stunning and beautiful. Her voice will draw comparisons from everyone such as Simone Simmons (Epica), Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever, Revamp, and touring currently with Nightwish) and Sharon den Adel(Within Temptation). While she may not be as powerful as some of the vocalists mentioned, she can reach far into soprano range, only to dial back, into a very soothing alto voice.
The Ghost I am, starts with Everett's voice singing over a very melancholic keyboard arrangement of strings. The drums join in at about the two minute mark, adding another dimension to the vocals. My only complaint to this song, is that Everett's choice of tone, does not change till almost three and a half minutes into the song. It's the same melody throughout the first two-thirds of the song. Guitars join in and the song finds its climatic point. It follows that by bringing you down to the melody you have heard throughout most of the song. If I am critical of this song, I actually liked it a lot, just some things I would have done differently.
Don't Hold Back, will remind people of the more modern offerings of bands like Evanescence. With its vocal effects, and repetitive nature of the lyrics “Come on, Come on, Come on, Come on, Bring it On,” it detracts from listening experience. The guitar riff through the verse, is very addictive,and easy to head bang to, while the verse is bombastic, and one quite good. Like the songs before it, it has tempo changes, bombastic vocals, and a well placed use of keyboards and orchestrations. O'Sweet Claire, is a very folksy song, which would not be out of place on an Elvenking cd or a Celtic folk album.
Sinergy comes in, with a mix of keyboards and a drum machine(at least it sounds like a drum machine to me), with Everett's soft vocals over it. The chorus has a very chunky sounding guitar riff come in, and it adds a dynamic to a pretty straight-forward song. The minute and forty second area of the song finds a different guitar and vocal melody, that adds a nice change of pace to the song. Almost industrial-like music drums come in around the two minute and twenty seconds to two minute and forty second area of the song. Its definitely a stand out song, I could see this song being used as a single. The Tale is another classical and folk infused song that is truly beautiful. From the instrumentation that is used to the enchanting vocals of Everett. My personal favorite guitar riff, is the almost power metal of Day at the Races. At the one minute and five second mark, we are greeted again with the almost cinematic and dramatic nature of Everett's voice.
This style of singing, shows this classically trained vocalist is in full control of her voice. While some might find this style of vocals, unnerving, one can't help but appreciate the talent that Everett has. The ripping solo at the two and a half minute mark, is my favorite solo on this disc. The faster parts of the song, I do not believe fit Everett's vocals well. She is forced to keep up with the pace of the song, and it sounds like she is producing the vocals in a spoken monotone. The highlight of this song, is at the three minute and 40 second mark, it's just something your going to have to hear for yourself. Nocturne in a Flat, is a rather long piano instrumental. While absolutely beautiful and melancholic, this song in my opinion would be best to be last on the disc. It may bore those, who do not appreciate classical piano. I myself, found it to be a relaxing piece of music, that should be graded on what it exactly is, a beautifully played piece of original music.
Realm brings back the Celtic influences, with a very cool clean guitar melody with chorus and reverb effects added in for good measure. This is another beautiful ballad, another highlight of Everett's beautiful voice and Binks ability to write such melodic pieces. Indigo sounds very much gothic rock versus the Celtic or symphonic metal heard earlier in the cd. While not my favorite song, it is consistent with the rest of the disc. SpiritScape, is an atmospheric song, layered with keyboard effects. As well the soprano of Everett, and her voice is absolutely stunning.
For a debut album, this album is very impressive, albeit inconsistent at times. On a few songs, I wished the vocals were a little lower in the mix, where the other instruments (all performed by Binks) were louder. I believe this band has a lot of promise. Binks is talented at his craft, and has a knack for writing melodies that go from melancholic and atmosphere to bombastic and very dynamic. Easily recommended for those who enjoy female-front Symphonic and Gothic bands.
Matthew Binks creates an atmosphere with his varied melodies, that Tammy Everett is able to tell the story too.
With a cursory scan of the Internet, even before their first album is released, some are calling Phantasma a symphonic supergroup. There's good reason for some such speculation. Phantasma features the collaboration of founders ... [ Read More ]