Phantom Shadow review by Machinae Supremacy

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  • Released: Aug 22, 2014
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.4 (14 votes)
Machinae Supremacy: Phantom Shadow

Sound — 9
Machinae Supremacy returns with their first ever attempt at a concept album. The result is a diverse and technicaly impressive record, that contains elements from all previous albums, especially the first one and their pre-album work. The story takes place in the future where a group of people have gained super in exchange for their souls. The songs are sung from the perspective of a main protagonist, that has to unite with others to fight evil. This story is clearly inspired by Japanese videogames and that movie "Divergent," which came out in 2013. The concept works really well and the album as a whole is awesome, but the individual songs never reach the epicness of the bands best. However, there are songs that stand out, like "Throne of Games," "The Second One" & "Beyond Good and Evil." Other songs stand out because their different, such as "Hubnester Rising," which focuses on an epic guitar melody instead of having a chorus. It actually sounds a bit like a Kalmah song at first. "The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall" sounds like a huge boss battle throughout most of the song. 

Phantom Shadow is the first album where the guitars aren't only written by Jonas Rörling, even if it's uncertain on how much music Tomi Luoma has contributed for the album. The guitarwork is just as impressive as always, while being more diverse then ever. Most impressive is "Throne of Games" with its fast paced power metal/rock guitarwork and soloing. However, there's one thing missing from this album, and that is the heavy riffs we've gotten used to hear on every album. There is a lot of memorable melodies but just not enough memorable riffs. When it comes to the drumming it's just as expected; great but not exceptional. The bass could be more audible, but it's not a problem. This album definitely has the most SID in it since the first one, which a lot of fans will appreciate.

Lyrics — 9
Robert Stjärnström's lyrics are just as unique and well written as we're used to, and the concept takes you on a journey, even though it's nothing like the best concept albums out there, such as Opeth's "Still Life" or Fear Factory's "Demanufacture." Robert's singing is still very much excellent, with catchy choruses and contagious vocal-melodies. I've always liked how much emotion he has in his singing and that he sounds different from any other vocalist. The best choruses this time are found in the songs "The Villain of This Story" and "Perfect Dark." The lyrical highlight is "Throne of Games," which features really great classic MaSu lyrics; "Why don't you play it like a game? - If that is all you know, why not display some fucking mad skills. Bring it on right now!" and "Put on your game face and reset that switch inside." No other band makes me sing along more than Machinae Supremacy, and that is definitely one of their strongest sides.

Overall Impression — 8
"Phantom Shadow" will not disappoint you, but it won't amaze you either. Out of the 6 albums, I would put it at nr. 5 below "Rise of a Digital Nation" and above "Deus Ex Machinae." If you're new to the band, I recommend starting with the "Overworld" album instead, but this is still a very solid album, that I recommend to anyone with an open mind. Machinae Supremacy is truly one of best and most interesting bands right know. The strongest tracks are "Throne of Games," "Perfect Dark," "Renegades," "Beyond Good and Evil," "The Second One" & "Hubnester Rising."

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Am I the only one to think that "Hubnester Rising" is quiet similar to Pain of Salvation's "The Perfect Element"(song)? In a good way, though. Not a copy, but a sign of respect. The structure and moods is just the same, beautiful, epic and emotional melodies, some powerfull prog-riffing and lyrics about "the End" - end the main character, end of of the world, etc. And, of course, both bands are from Swedish metal scene, so they are surely aware of each other. I find this idea quiet obvious
    I really cannot agree with this review on any level. I honestly think Phantom Shadow is Machinae Supremacy's better albums. I am not sure I am as daring to say I think it the best one, A View from the End of the World and Overworld are definitely two other contenders for that spot, but Phantom Shadow is really up there. For one thing, I do not understand how Sam thinks this album isn't different or daring enough compared to their previous works. One thing that is very much different with Phantom Shadow is that it is much more melodic and overall melody-driven. I am not sure why it is suggested to be symphonic. If one expected this album to be symphonic then yes, I agree, it is a lackluster in this department, but I don't think it was intended to be symphonic as much as it was intended to be a more melodic and, perhaps, epic, of an entry compared to previous albums. Something more akin to Remnant (March of the Undead) but as an album. It is yes, an attempt to go back to their previous roots, while still being very much different because I think fans felt they went a little too far in pop territory with A Rise of a Digital Nation which, especially seeing that it was a follow-up of A View from the End of the World, was very weak. Anyway, for me, personally, seeing how I've been into melodic metal as my favorite prefix for many years, this is arguably their best album to date. Not just because of the song-writing which is really top notch. I find that there are only a few weak songs (personally not a big fan of Throne of Games which feels quite out of sync, conceptually and sound-wise speaking, to the rest of the songs and I've never been a fan of that part of MaSu's sound) and the flow and the story brings the album very well together. Not quite sure where people argue that the album seems inspired by video games though, since if anything, the story is an extremely generic shonen. I'd second the comment that it is Japanese-y, however. Also, the main protagonist is a woman, not a man, wanted to point that out, and she ends up fighting her old mentor and previous lifelong friend which is why the story has this bittersweet rivalry in it. Anyway, it's a female main lead and this is why the album cover has a female face in the front as well. Very much in line with MaSu's desire to support feminism and equal representation (not the first time they've done this). I also second that this album is actually not for newer MaSu listeners. Phantom Shadow is definitely their most complex album and I think it shows in the little ways of how they wrote their songs. The complexity of the song-writing is greater than it is on previous albums and I definitely feel that the band has not just evolved in terms of developing their sound, but in terms of overall technical skill. That's probably difficult to notice unless one has listened A LOT to their older albums, though. And also second the allusions to previous works, like how Europa has a melody similar to Flagcarrier (which in turn was written to sound like Terra's Theme).