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Phantasmagoria; Wheaton, MD; 11/20/99

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

This unseasonably warm November night was set afire by a warm lunar light - with great anticipation I awaited to see Moonspell on their first ever North American tour. And I was not disappointed. 

The bill had eleven bands as this nine hour show attracted the largest crowd to Phantasmagoria that I've ever seen.

First of all, my apologies to the bands I did not see perform: Algol, Lili Tu, New Millennium's End, Tortured, and Darkest Hour. The show started at 4:30pm and I didn't get to the show until about 7pm - I'm certain there will be a next time to catch these bands performing on the Phantasmagoria stage.

Sorrow's Banquet was the first act I caught in action. Three guitarists fronted this band and each one of them could pull of blinding fast runs a la Yngwie J. Malmsteen's over the top power metal/death metal riffs. 

Twisted Tower Dire played more traditional power metal, at one point even covering Iron Maiden's "Powerslave" after relentless urging by the fans.  

Seeing Garden Of Shadows on the bill when I walked through the door lifted my spirits considerably. I was impressed after having seen Garden Of Shadows at the Samael show a few months back. Garden Of Shadows played a thirty minute set of the fantastic amalgam of metal styles that they are known for. There is a reason Garden Of Shadows have received rave reviews - this is a talented band! One particular highlight of the set was "Continuum"; however, each song was epic in its tendencies with wonderful combination of brutal yet sorrowful passages and beautiful sections. Words do not do this band justice. After the Garden Of Shadows set there was universal agreement among those in attendance that Garden Of Shadows are a force to be reckoned with. I cannot wait to see Garden Of Shadows perform again. 

The Dillinger Escape Plan combine extreme hardcore and metal with brutal technical efficiency for a truly innovative sound. Surgical precision is an accurate description of their devastating performance. It's obvious that these guys are talented, but I was quite unprepared for what I heard. It'll be interesting to see how my opinion of The Dillinger Escape Plan holds up until the next time I see them in action. 

Moonspell were simply phenomenal. As the epitome of the darkwave movement, Moonspell take their art seriously. Exploring many topics, Moonspell have brought forth complexity and power to their music. Moonspell opened their set with a devastating rendition of "The Butterfly FX" - this was a clear indication of how starved the metal audience is for music that rocks as well as moves. Moonspell chose to focus their set on heavier material including "Lustmord" from their latest CD, "Opium" from their sophomore release, and "Alma Mater" from their full-length debut. 

I was hoping Moonspell would play the stunning goth masterpiece "Handmade God" from their third disc "Sin/Pecado," but, alas, it was not to be. However, Moonspell did play the impressive "I Am The Eternal Spectator" from the new album which was unexpected. "Ruin & Misery" was fantastic as well and sounded much better in the live setting than on disc; "Wolfshade" met with positive fan reaction. Moonspell closed with the dark "Vampiria" from their debut album "Wolfheart" (this disc, which received critical acclaim when it was released, is still attracting fans to the Moonspell audience). 

Moonspell hope to tour North America in 2000 and I guarantee you this is a band to be seen in the concert setting. Fernando Ribeiro has amazing stage presence. The rest of the band (Ricardo Amorim on guitars, Pedro Paixao on guitar/synths/samples, Sergio Crestana on bass, and Mike Gaspar on drums) played with gusto. Believe me when I tell you that I can't wait to see Moonspell again. 

In Flames, purveyors of the Gothenburg sound, were very impressive - they were a lot better than I expected. I had read a lot of press about In Flames and there's no doubting the dedication and loyalty of the In Flames fans. I've always been a tad skeptical about the term "melodic Death metal" and since In Flames are considered to be the forerunners of the melodic Death metal sound I had my doubts about whether or not I would actually like it. After blowing the audience away with their first song,  "Embody The Invisible," In Flames keep the pace with remarkable dexterity and melodicism. It is fun to be impressed by a band and tonight was no exception. Looks like I'll be adding to my CD collection soon. 

Some of the great tunes In Flames treated their audience to included "Ordinary Story," "Scorn," "Behind Space '99," "Episode 666" and "Whoracle." The mixing of a wickedly fast heavy groove, dual guitar melodies, and a uniform mix of modern death metal with progressive and Black Sabbath-styled touches is an intoxicating blend of music.  

This was a fantastic night of metal - kudos to Phantasmagoria for bringing the varied styles of the bands into one bill that satisfying and enjoyable.  

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Copyright 1999 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:16 -0400.