Phantom Elite – Wasteland (Self-Released)

Sunday, 21st January 2018
Rating: 10/10

It’s still amazing sometimes, how you can find bands in the present day. Phantom Elite is the first band this scribe can state that was personally discovered from using Instagram (going back to 2016 in this instance). Of course, it didn’t hurt that vocalist Marina La Torraca later joined up with Exit Eden last year (which hopefully furthered the cause of Phantom Elite). Nonetheless, Wasteland is the young Dutch/Brazilian metal act’s debut, and it feels like nothing less than a scorcher.

While a few quick clicks might lead you to discover that Phantom Elite falls somewhat under the symphonic metal flag, the term scorcher works nonetheless. Far more than many acts that have emerged under that banner, Phantom Elite is one that truly feels different. There are some symphonic/theatrical foundations to be heard (see “Above the Crowd”), but they can bring a heaviness that often borrows from more melodic death metal than anything else. “Rise With the Dawn” and “Spectrum of Fear” have moments where it would be just as easy to imagine growling occurring alongside the riffing, to give a bit of perspective. There’s a uniqueness overall to the way that they can shift between heavy and catchy, symphonic and visceral, augmenting a diversity that propels the album forward yet never feels like too much of a stretch. It would have been far too easy for the band to allow the enigmatic La Torraca to steal the show (as many lesser acts tend to do), but instead the listener is shown top-notch performances around the board. Outside of playful riffing and frequently standout leadwork on the guitar front, a crisp production lets the often rumbling bass and creative drumming to have their time in the limelight as well.

With these heavier and more dynamic elements in play, it gives La Torraca more space and contrast to deliver a powerful performance. What is possibly the strongest track in the bunch, “Revelation” maintains an anthemic and frantic feel that is coupled with a cinematic mood that La Torraca’s music theater background twists into an utterly captivating and unique spin within this style of music. Not that she doesn’t stand out equally well with a soaring yet gentle cut like “Astray,” which is one of the most gorgeous ballads in recent memory, but she can still command a more dominating presence with darker and more bombastic songs like “Lockdown” (which even delves into some more electronic/industrial moments) with ease. Her often distinctive delivery also is key in helping the band to stand out.

Given the welcome density and layered sense of the music of Wasteland, it may not sink in the way you’d expect on the first listen. There are some moments to bring you back for sure (the afore-mentioned “Astray”), but it’s a record that seems to unfold and blossom the more you listen to it. At almost an hour of music, it will keep you on your toes with its diversity and range, as well as it’s unwillingness to blindly follow the route of symphonic/’female-fronted’ bands in front of them. A true gem work seeking out – Phantom Elite should rightly be considered future leaders in this field with a monumental starting point such as Wasteland.

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