Fantom is an album that is far from easily accessible. The fourth release by solo artist Forlatt, fantom is an 86 minute journey of solitude and misery, with the music wrapping the listener up in layers of melancholia. It is hardly an album that can be listened to casually, containing as it does some incredibly long songs (three run to over fifteen minutes each) that unfurl over time, gradually revealing their secrets and depths. Yet it is hard to resist its charms, as the moods contained here – as sorrowful as they are – are filled with a kind of beauty, that is balanced with enough moments of post-black metal aggression to ensure that fantom never risks feeling stagnant.
It must be emphasized from the beginning that fantom is an album in the classic sense of the word; it should be treated as a unified body of work, divided in to songs largely for the sake of convenience. It is not an album that can be casually dipped in and out of, and to listen to these songs outside of their intended context would do them an injustice. The longer songs feel like the real highlights of the album – perhaps inevitably, given their length – moving as they do through a variety of soundscapes and exploring the depths and variations that exist within melancholic post-rock and post-black metal. The shorter tracks often feel like interludes, but this is not intended to be disrespectful; they serve an important purpose, linking the album together whilst also providing shorter sections of variation.
It should also be highlighted that the kind of post-black metal Forlatt present on fantom has little to do with that term as it’s often understood. Instead, this is post-black metal that has taken its inspiration from Ulver’s Perdition City, including the occasional use of electronic elements. Whilst that album kept its songs short, and made very obvious efforts to move away from black metal completely, fantom is not afraid to make use of buzzsaw guitars where appropriate, blending them with soundscapes that evoke lonely city nights and inner torment. It’s a refreshing, bold combination. It would be easy for such brave musical endeavors to fall short, but Forlatt demonstrate the talent to match their ambition. Like Perdition City, fantom feels like an album that tells a story, and though it is not designed as a soundtrack like Perdition City was, there is still a sense of drama and cinema to the music. Whilst such elements were present on previous releases, such as Lysende Skygger, they have very much come to the fore here.
The only real issue with fantom is how long it is. In one sense, it is hard to argue against being given 86 minutes of music of such quality for the cost of 1 Euro; but, given that the album is best when listened to as a whole, finding the time and head-space to do so may be an issue. It is very much an album to sink in to late at night, with minimal distractions, but the run time presents an obvious barrier to this.
Still, when the only real complaint against an album is that it’s too long, you know that the artist has done something very right. fantom is a captivating piece of melancholic art, and even if you struggle to make time in your day for it, it is worth doing so – there are many wondrous depths to explore here that are well worth your time and attention, even if they are rather bleak.
fantom is available via Bandcamp.