AUDIO REVIEW: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (VINYL LP) / COMPOSER: THE LAZE / PUBLISHER: ONE WAY STATIC / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 8TH
When the Laze's re-score for the 1925 Lon Chaney film, The Phantom of the Opera, works – it absolutely works. When it doesn't – it's rather tepid. The Laze are a collective of seven musicians, playing an array of instruments from synthesisers to cello to guitars to saxophones, along with three additional musicians on cello, voice, and percussion.
Unfortunately, big numbers don't add up to a big sound. While there's an awful lot of electric guitar on the album, it never really reaches any sort of depth. The crisp, clean acoustic opening to Faust Phantasmal makes complete sense, but when it builds to the soloing electric guitar, the processors it's run through leave it sounding like a MIDI version, rather than the prog-rock bit of amazing it could have been.
And that's the flaw of the recording as a whole – when you're dealing with piano or strings, one appreciates a high-end that renders them clear and bright. Pieces like Languish in Love (Erik and Christine) do that admirably well, with their more traditional instrumentation and song structure. But it's not until the full electronic, synth-laden workout of Heat, Intolerable Heat that The Phantom of the Opera achieves any sense of fullness. It leads nicely into Scorpion vs Grasshopper, which is the one track on the album that makes it seem as if the guitar work was thought out, rather than applied liberally on top of existing cuts, like some sort of noodly garnish.
And, really, outside of the tracks which conclude the album, everything else is either a mishmash or just uninspired. Frankly, the first side is rather boring, and the LP takes a good long while to get going. It's a faithful, persistent listener who will find reason to push through Under the Earth and Across a Black Lake or Above and Beyond (An Impossible Love) to get to the likes of Watery Grave.
The Phantom of the Opera's final track, The Strangler's Cord, is a solid, if rather patchwork piece of instrumental progressive rock, but the remix of it, Master of the Dark Arts (available as a bonus track on the digital download and compact disc versions) is absolutely wonderful. It reminds the listener of something like Piper at the Gates of Dawn-era Pink Floyd, or the like. It really demonstrates what the Laze are capable of.
The album is available on compact disc and digital download, which come with the aforementioned bonus remix, as well as on cassette and vinyl LP. The LP comes on clear with black and white splatter or clear and black split vinyl, along with a streaming card that allows you to watch the original film, with the Laze's re-score synced to it. The artwork is absolutely spectacular when seen on the gatefold LP jacket, and one almost wishes there were a way to get the wrap-around cover art as a print.