REVIEW: And the Kingdom Fell – Phantasms [EP/2015]

ATKF

Artist: And the Kingdom Fell

Album: Phantasms – EP

 

It’s tough to create a truly unique album these days—especially in heavy music genres where it seems almost everything has been done. Even if your amalgam of genres isn’t truly “original,” it can be a tiresome task to create a sound or dynamic that is; and if you aren’t sure, have no fear, outspoken members of the heavy music community will have no problem telling you your album sounds like a “watered down ______,” or “a wanna be _______.” See? It is tough. Fortunately, And the Kingdom Fell succeeded in creating their own sound with their latest release, Phantasms. The bad news? It is the sound of a band that still needs more time in the maturation phase, as many of the songs on Phantasms feel incomplete or lacking—and the ones that don’t have their own issues to contend with.

Fundamentally, every musician in And the Kingdom Fell is very talented—this is true of the quick, technically savvy percussion as it is of the snappy bass guitar and sweeping guitars that work together in shred-friendly synergy. The issue facing Phantasms is not one of musical prowess, but of songwriting and structure. Tracks like “Deus Mortis” are composed of sections of brilliance that are linked questionably—or not at all, often with little in the way of transition. Lengthier songs like “Descent into the Maelstrom” and “The Jester Reprisal” transition smoothly but are monotonous, with long stretches of repetitive riffs or grooves that wear on the listener’s ear. However, “The Chaos Engine” gets it just right—an excellent combination of fluid, fierce grooves and lacerating fretwork atop a canvas of tumultuous and churning percussion. “The Chaos Engine” is the sole example of songwriting expertise on And the Kingdoms Fell’s behalf, and while no other track is a true “failure,” they certainly aren’t successful, as more often than not, they feel like hodgepodge amalgams of riffs and breakdowns without much in the way of flow to keep the listener engaged.

Where And the Kingdoms Fell’s musical mediocrity is tolerable—if not slightly annoying—their vocal dynamic takes a little more getting used to. For the first thirty seconds of “The Jester Reprisal,” Phantasms is smooth sailing—until frontman Darryl Ford’s higher register kicks in. Where Ford’s low grunts and gurgling gutturals are solid with rare moments of excellence, his high screeches are irritating at best and cringeworthy at worst. Sounding something like blackened death metal gone awry, the high screeches throughout Phantasms offer lyrical intelligibility (which is as much a con as it is a pro), but little else, raising the hairs on the listener’s neck—and not in a good way. Where Ford’s higher range is widely underutilized throughout the EP, it still has a knack for completely ruining whatever vibe they interrupt, almost begging the listener to “skip” the remainder of the song altogether.

The takeaway message is this: And the Kingdoms Fell is a solid-but-not-outstanding release with moments that are either displays of songwriting success or sections of sheer vocal failure. Unfortunately, Ford’s high shrieks tend to dampen the atmosphere more often than And the Kingdoms Fell’s musicians can create a truly memorable track, relegating Phantasms to the shelf in favor of other bands who excel at blending technical and melodic death metal with hints of hardcore. Whether it’s the instrumental, proggy title track (that doesn’t really fit) or the half-hearted mashup of styles in “Deus Mortis”—or the seemingly never ending “The Jester Reprisal,” Phantasms is a collection of near misses condemned with a few notable flops and but one redeeming track. While the group have succeeded in finding a relatively refreshing style, they still have a voyage ahead of them to refine and perfect it.

 

6/10

For Fans Of: Bel’akor, The Black Dahlia Murder, The Faceless, Veil of Maya.

By: Connor Welsh