"The Phantom Lodge" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Swedish black metal act Diabolical Masquerade. The album was released in 1997 by Adipocere Records.
Diabolical Masquerade is a one man black metal solo project featuring Anders Nyström (who appears here under the Blackheim name). Blackheim is the guitarist and co-founder of Swedish doom/metal legends Katatonia. Katatonia is widely considered one of the most prolific doom metal acts of the early- to mid nineties with albums such as "Dance of December Souls (1993)" and especially "Brave Murder Day (1996)". They have later pursued a more subtle progressive/alternative rock/ metal style. Anders Nyström is also a member of Swedish death metal act Bloodbath which also feature among others Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity, Nightingale, Pan-Thy-Monium, Second Sky, Maceration, Unicorn, etc...) and Mikael Åkerfelt (Opeth).
The music that Blackheim creates for Diabolical Masquerade is very different from the sound of Katatonia, which should probably be considered his main act. Diabolical Masquerade is a vehicle for his black metal/heavy metal ideas. What you´ll be exposed to on "The Phantom Lodge" are raspy black metal vocals and lots of symphonic melodic black metal and traditional metal riffs. The traditional heavy metal is best heard in a song like "Ravenclaw" which actually reminded me a bit of the true metal style of Manowar, but early- to mid eighties thrash metal legends like Kreator, Sodom, Possessed, Slayer and Destruction are obviously a big influence too. The music on "The Phantom Lodge" is very symphonic though with lots of synth which is not a feature in the music of any of the mentioned bands. There is also a nordic folk feeling in some of the tracks which the flute playing by Tina Sahlstedt further enhances.
Blackheim is a great musician who handles both guitars, bass, keyboards/synths and vocals on the album while he is helped out by Sean C. Bates on drums and percussion. It´s great to have a "Real" drummer playing the drums as opposed to the programmed drums that somewhat mared the debut. Dan Swanö also helps out this time around, providing vocals to the track "Hater", which is another of the more traditional heavy metal sounding tracks on the album.
The production is a notch better than on the debut album but the drums still have a very strange sound to them that bothers me some. One of the greater assets when talking sound production is how well Blackheim various vocals are produced. Compared to the more lo- fi black metal productions this is a very professional and clean sound (without being polished).
If you like melodic and semi-symphonic black metal with lots of traditional heavy metal elements "The Phantom Lodge" is a recommendable listen. A 3.5 star rating is warranted.