The Phantom Tollbooth
March 1999 Pick of the Month

Artist: Various
Label: Kraynight Productions/Flaming Fish Music
Length: 12 tracks/73:11 minutes

Opening with a beautiful choral requiem dedicated to the children who lost their lives in the Oklahoma City bombing, this was actually the senior project of composer Brian C. Janes (also of Tempestuous ALL) who has attempted to capture the pain and confusion felt by their parents. The lyrics, many of which are taken from the requiem liturgy, are a prayer from the parents to God:

You will also find a "Kyrie," a "Sanctus," "Benedictus," and "Agnus Dei," all of which offer the traditional Latin text delivered in a plain chant. By blending modern industrial sounds, classical liturgical plain chant, operatic vocals, and classical sounds, Janes has composed a piece that has a very modern sound. He not only manages to capture the emotions some felt in the wake of this horrendous act of violence which rocked our nation, but he balances it perfectly with these old liturgies of praise, haunting sounds of playful children, operatic solos, and tribal percussions. Using two keyboards, two percussionists, a thirty member chorus, and Kathryn Aamerlan as the solo soprano, this is truly a wonderful piece which would be right at home on your local classical FM radio station. I hope this will be performed for a live audience. It certainly deserves to be. This piece's only weakness is the soprano soloist's tendency to wail, which is particularly unnerving when she reaches for ultra high notes and then holds them longer than is necessary. Both my ears and my speakers hurt.

In addition to the "Requiem," there are also six other tracks by Christian industrial bands:  Kevin Dumps, WeltWasher, Aphorism, Engrave, and the Way Sect Bloom. Janes asked each of these bands to contribute a piece of music as a memorial to the children. Although initially concerned they would be a potential letdown after the magnificence of the "Requiem," I find they actually fit the album very nicely. The first half of The Way Sect Bloom's "FZCO: Requiem" consists of dark, gothic ambience with sampled Gregorian chants, which then transitions into pulsating industrial sequencing and whispered industrial type vocals praying for deliverance:

The result is topnotch. Cult of Jester's airy, ambient "Where No Shadow Falls," which flows along with a dreamy almost Barque feel to it, is also a standout. "Remembrance Blue," a dark ambient music piece by EnGrave, also lulls you off into a meditative dreamland.

Overall, this compilation is quite a grand accomplishment for Janes and highly recommended. Available from Flaming Fish or Kraynight Productions's website,  order a couple of copies today. A portion of the CD proceeds will be donated to Families & Survivors United, a non-profit organization in Oklahoma City directly involved with the recovery and support of the families of the bombing victims and survivors. The second movement of the Requiem will be appearing on Vol. 3 of the We The Living compilation series being released by True Tunes Online.

By Shari Lloyd (2/20/99)