PHANTASMAL: Ansaan syntyneet – Ansaan kuolleet
Release year: 2019
During the noughties, there evolved in Finland a somehow quite distinct form of extreme metal which was neither black, death nor doom, but instead a weird amalgamation of all of those which could only be described as “Finnish extreme metal” – I’ve yet to encounter many bands from abroad who sound like this. A major player in this field was Ajattara, fronted by one-time Amorphis vocalist Pasi Koskinen, but the trappings of the style were picked from a wide array of influences, from Swallow The Sun to Mustan Kuun Lapset and beyond.
The two-piece Phantasmal, consisting of Niilo and Leevi Kämäräinen – who I presume are related due to the shared surname – tap into this vein as a latecomer into a genre that seems to have slightly fallen off the radar for the most part, even if more recent acts such as Kuolemanlaakso could be seen as carrying the torch on.
Ansaan syntyneet – Ansaan kuolleet is Phantasmal’s debut full-length, and apparently pretty much an entirely homegrown production. The album was not only self-released by the band, but also recorded in a home studio. Post-production duties were (apparently) handled by Henri Sorvali of Moonsorrow. As such, the sound and production quality are on a respectable level: the sound is good and clear, and even if there are things I am critical of on the album, it sounds like a professional production.
Stylistically, Phantasmal fall smack in the middle of the no man’s ground the above outlined “Finnish extreme metal” of the noughties was. The base is a blackened form of largely mid-tempo death metal with ample melodies, sometimes leaning towards a more purely black metal form of expression, sometimes towards a more doom or death-doom oriented approach, and sometimes towards a very light, melancholy form of melodicism. Aforementioned Ajattara can clearly be heard in the way some of the vocals are structured, whereas the slower, doomier sections bring to mind the “funeral doom lite” of acts such as Saattue.
Basically, Phantasmal do many things right, but the lack of killer songs is crippling. The duo nail the basic elements of the style, but fail in putting forth killer riffs and memorable songs. The result is lamentably underwhelming; lamentably, because for the most part, Phantasmal do a lot of things right. There’s a lot of variation meaning things never get too repetitive, the growled vocals are maybe a bit nondescript but entirely competent, the sound is adept (but could do with a bit more punch) and there is the occasional moment that hints at the hidden potential of Phantasmal. And that’s it in a nutshell: there’s potential here, but it’s not actualized on Ansaan syntyneet – Ansaan kuolleet. And that’s frustrating.
In the end, on their debut Phantasmal sound a bit too dime a dozen to warrant much excitement. It sounds like an album where you’ve heard most things before, and probably done better. But, looking at things from a different perspective, the same can be turned into reason for reserved optimism: despite havings flaws, Ansaan syntyneet – Ansaan kuolleet presents a solid base to build on. Depending on where Phantasmal goes from here, I can certainly see the potential for truly good things in their future.