Qantice- The Phantonauts
Qantice – The Phantonauts (2014)
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
Shall we let bygones be bygones PelleK? (Get it?, because the first song is… you know what, this joke would be a lot better if we had tracklists in our reviews). I’ve been a Qantice fan for a few years after hearing the band’s unbalanced, but very unique, debut album The Cosmocinesy, which was released in 2009. Qantice appealed to me on the grounds of its great symphonic elements, a couple of really addicting choruses, and just for sounding… different from any of their peers in progressive power metal. Something about the band struck me as sounding like a one-off project, probably assuming that, as unique and interesting as the band was, it would lack the appeal to get traction for a second album. Guitarist and bandleader Tony Beaufils surprised me however, and recruited the thoroughly despised, pop-star wannabe, terrible Youtube cover-making PelleK to record a followup.
Qantice’s second effort, The Phantonauts, is a highly eclectic, progressive power metal album with a mountain of peripheral, sometimes symphonic attempts, including the admirable efforts of violin player Yosh Otias, the only musician other than Beaufils to carry over from the debut. Qantice casts itself in the non-existent genre of “movie soundtrack metal,” which, despite not being a thing, is still a lot of fun to listen to. There’s a rich sound palette at work, with some standout flute parts, and a ton of synths which appear to be uncredited. In addition to Otias, Qantice also has a female bass player, Christine Lanusse, and if PelleK was castrated at a young age like I suspect, that makes the first half-female band in progressive metal history.
If I keep making fun of PelleK though, I’m never going to get around to actually telling you about this album, on which he’s not even that much of a factor. This is certainly his best vocal performance, and while he’s singing with more power than ever, it’s still incredibly sugary. I wasn’t terribly offended by his last solo album either, and I’ve always felt his biggest weakness was bad songwriting. If I could hear these songs from the vocalist on the debut, I’d prefer it, but PelleK does a fine job. Much more important to the band’s sound are the incredibly deep soundscapes and much-improved rhythm sections, courtesy of the influence of new drummer Aurelien Joucla. If I had to point to the most significant addition in this new lineup, it would certainly be him.
Joucla’s contributions are best felt on the first two songs, “Epic Fail,” and “Hoverland.” They are plenty fast and catchy enough to pull in any respectable power metal fan, but far more intricate and musically involved than typical symphonic power metal fair. From there, the music shifts to a few slower and mid-tempo songs, while jumping into the faster stuff when necessary, but it feels like a bit of a letdown after such a forceful opening. What makes up for that drop off is the symphonic attitude. Luca Turilli has been trumpeting himself as a king of ‘movie soundtrack metal’ for years, but I won’t hesitate to say that Tony Beaufils is thoroughly better at the task. Every song is just so engaging, both in melody and in the choice of varied instrumentation to create incredibly cool soundscapes. There’s your typical high strings and choirs, but then there’s what I’m pretty sure is a theremin in the intro of the title track, and a violin/guitar unison shred solo in “Slayers Jig.”
Even though “The Last Circus” is one of the more interesting tracks on the record, it’s also the slowest, and winds on for far too long. I know I start to approach broken record with this stuff, but I do not want to hear power metal singers doing overlong, slow songs. Outside of that, The Phantonauts is really engaging, well produced, and with solid performances all around. Following about the only French trend, it will give you quite a unique listening experience. If ‘better symphonic metal than Luca Turilli’ doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will.