In 2011, former Virus VI guitarist Samuel Arkan released the album Obsessions under the moniker of Epysode. The first album boasted a who’s who in the metal world including Kelly Sundown Carpenter (Beyond Twilight, Darkology), Oddleif Stensland (Communic), Rick Altzi (At Vance, Thunderstone), Magali Luyten (Ayreon, Beautiful Sin, Virus IV), Kristoffer Gildenlöw and Liselotte Hegt (Ayreon, Dial, Valentine). The first Epysode is an all-star project with a conceptual story about a young police profiler investigates a mysterious series of murders. And while he does, he gets in touch with several supernatural phenomena that draw him deeper and deeper, to become a major part of the story; just don’t call it a metal opera! The music is dark, heavy, progressive, modern power metal and has little to nothing in common with bands such as Ayreon or Avantasia. The follow up to Obsessions (2011) was mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen at Hansen studio in Denmark (Volbeat, Pretty Maids, Amaranthe). When putting together the line up for Fantasmagoria, Arkan was faced with the difficult task of re-capturing lightning in a bottle. But with a new ensemble featuring Tom S. Englund (Evergrey) Henning Basse (ex-Metalium, ex-Sons Of Seasons, Mayan) Ida Haukland (Triosphere) Matt Marinelli (Borealis) Tezzi Persson (Between The Silence) Mike LePond (Symphony X) Léo Margarit (Pain Of Salvation) Julien Spreutels (Ethernity) and Simone Mularoni (DGM), Arkan may have topped himself. In talking about the musicians for the new album, Arkan has stated,”I wanted the whole thing to get a real “band” feeling, therefore having all vocalists and musicians here was very important to me. We got to know each other better and better while spending time together. The new material sounds very fresh, dark, heavy, modern and “true” with “straight in the face” guitar riffs, intense voices and melodies, massive work on progressive atmospheres and orchestral parts. All the artists who participated in this album gave their soul to it, gave their best, they traveled deeper into sensitivity and sincerity. That’s probably the best words which define this next album… sincerity & spontaneity! This album comes from the heart of each musician and vocalist who worked on it, and you can feel it when you listen to this new EPYSODE album.
Much like Obsessions, Fantasmagoria has a conceptual storyline running through the album with a cast of characters played by the guest vocalists. Briefly, the story revolves around a brother and sister pair who are serial killers and their victims bleed to death slowly through countless painful thorn bites. A policeman and a young journalist chasing the murderers who find protection in a priest but soon finds himself in the middle of a battle between demons and angels. To discover the deeper meanings in the story and its layers and intricacies, you’ll have to follow along by reading the liner notes and lyrics when you purchase the album!
The first track is the short intro File 4180-2 is a duet between Marinelli and Haukland. The song sets the tone for what is to come on the rest of the album with eerie keyboard effects and Hauklands haunting vocals. The albums first official single/lyric video is for The Arch featuring vocals by Tom Englund, who sounds better than ever with his trademark emotive delivery, but also an added ferocity to his vocals that you don’t normally hear on an Evergrey release. The song is heavy, dark, haunting, melodic, and majestic with an powerful chorus and sweeping keyboard runs from Spreutels and guitar shredding from Mularoni.
Morning Rose shines the spotlight on Ida Haukland, an exceptional female vocalist who has a powerful tone similar to Magali Luyten. Her vocals fit the aggressive song perfectly. The verses have chunky chugging guitar rhythms and chorus is full of melody and soaring vocal work. Former Sons of Seasons/Metalium/and current Mayan “clean” vocalist Henning Basse takes center stage on the ultra melodic and dark metal anthem Venom. This song fits Basses’ s melodic gritty vocals perfectly.
The centerpiece of the album is The Black Parade, a spectacular duet between Marinelli and Englund. This is an energetic, headbanging, powerful song and the vocals unleashed bring the albums powerful emotion to another level. For those who are unfamiliar with Marinellis’ work with Borealis, I urge you to pick up their latest release Fall From Grace you will not be disappointed!
Spreutels and Mularoni trade off keyboard and guitar runs in spectacular fashion. T.H.O.R.N.S. is another heavy and haunting song featuring a duet between Basse and Haukland. The trade off between these two powerful male and female metal vocalists fits the song perfectly. The tempo slows down, albeit temporarily, on Garden of Exile. Julien Spreutels tickles the ivories with a short piao interlude with a vocal from Marinelli which leads into the technical ferocity of Raven’s Curse which has a triple vocal attack between Englund, Haukland, and Persson with Englund providing the verses and Haukland/Persson joining in on the chorus on this symphonic metal gem.
Margarit and LePond show their rhythm skills on Living Fortress, a dark symphonic keyboard laden song that fans of Basse’s previous work with Sons of Seasons already know how he delivers an intense performance with this style. The crown jewel of the album is the title track vocalized by Englund and Haukland, a haunting powerfully epic quasi-ballad where both vocalists steal the show with a spine chilling performance. Englund’s melancholy style compliments Haukland’s power perfectly. The song is awe-inspiring with a slow build until the songs soaring climax. The Inheritance is another atmospheric interlude with a dramatic spoken word part performed by Haukland that leads into Now and Forever, a duet performed by the female contingent of Epysode. Both Haukland and Persson possess powerful vocal deliveries with slight differences that compliment each other perfectly during the songs harmony vocal sections.
Forgotten Symphony is a piano/keyboard driven epic featuring the vocals of Basse, Englund, and Haukland. Each vocalist gets their moment during the song before the brilliant melodic chorus with multi-layered vocal harmonies, which will give the listener goosebumps. On the albums final song Unreal, Borealis singer Marinelli delivers a melodic and powerful performance that brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.
With Fantasmagoria, Epysode has delivered a masterpiece of epic proportions that not only equals expectations it surpasses them. One can only imagine what Samuel Arkan has in store for us on future Epysodes, but I for one will definitely continue to tune in!