Phantom showed us the prototypical underground black metal sound, fusing together the darkened melodic heavy metal of early Burzum and Graveland with the high-speed and high-intensity death metal of Incantation and Morbid Angel, to make a new voice for the next generation of “true” black metal. The band’s debut album “Divine Necromancy” kept the black metal spirit entirely alive, and turned up the volume on that, but also gave the music the voice of apocalyptic desecration without falling into the pitfalls of brutality for brutality’s sake, also known as war metal (and that alone deserves praise).
Having created itself with “Divine Necromancy,” Phantom streamlined the black metal/death metal fusion with “Withdrawal” and then backed off a bit toward black metal territory with “Fallen Angel,” which aimed more at the pure atmospheric side of extreme metal music.
We could see “Fallen Angel” and “Memento Mori” as, like Incantation’s “Diabolical Conquest,” a two-way shifts like tectonic plates moving under one another. “Memento Mori” fully realized the Phantom style, but in the process took it more toward pure rhythm-based death metal music, which the band intuited correctly would not make as great an impression as the more melodic and memorable black metal songs of their earlier works.
“The Epilogue to Sanity” corrected that by bringing in the melody and ambience of early Norwegian black metal, following what Mayhem – primarily led by Euronymous and Varg Vikernes – innovated on “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” years earlier.
When people ask “where is the darkness in nowadays black metal” I just sit there, and quietly motion towards “The Epilogue to Sanity.” That album is the epitome of all things black metal seeks to be, not just “dark” and “atmospheric,” as the kids would say, but having a real sinister aura being projected by the music.
Hail Phantom, and hail all true black metal.