Don't you just love surprises? I know I do. Unexpectedly this CD showed up in my mailbox packaged together (all nice, snug and tight thank you very much!) with Iron Mask's "Son Of Winterdoom". Now, I didn't ask for either one (or at least I don't remember asking for them) but I'm glad I got both. I really do adore surprises, especially musical surprises! As I've thus far only managed to digest "Fantasmagoria", the sophomore release from this Belgian act, I can't vouch for the Iron Mask CD (although I was at least somewhat familiar with that bunch as I've covered them in the past) and I'm not going to even try to guess as to how it will stack up side by side with this. If you are asking who or what exactly Epysode is then you're not alone. Prior to popping this CD into my stereo I had no clue either as to who Epysode was. Just going by the album art I was expecting some sort of female-fronted power metal act. But, while there are female vocals to be found here (an example is the brilliant and beautiful title cut which is a duet that features Ida Haukland of Triosphere), this is an entirely different beast all together. The band is the brainchild of guitarist Samuel Arkan who once again enlisted numerous guest vocalists and musicians for a "Super Natural thriller Metal Concept". What exactly does that mean or (better yet) even entail? Serving as the follow-up to 2011's "Obsessions", Epysode's latest release is progressive power metal. Or at least on the surface. Dig a little deeper down and dark metal starts to emerge along with brief flashes of symphonic metal, goth metal and, don't run away screaming or anything with this next bit, even a little nod or two towards neoclassical metal! Amazing all of it blends together rather well. Guitarist Samuel Arkan manged to gather up a fine collection of guests including Tom S. Englund (Evergrey), Henning Basse (ex-Metalium, ex-Sons Of Seasons, Mayan), Ida Haukland (Triosphere), Matt Marinelli (Borealis), Tezzi Persson (Between The Silence), Mike LePond (Symphony X) Léo Margarit (Pain Of Salvation), Julien Spreutels (Ethernity) and Simone Mularoni (DGM). While the final package was mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen at Hansen studio in Denmark (Volbeat, Pretty Maids, Amaranthe a.m.m.) the rest of the recording actually took place at Noise Factory Studio (Belgium). What's more, all of the various guests actually managed to make it to Noise Factory Studio to record their parts. I'd imagine that would have been quiet the challenge so kudos to Epysode! So, what worked on "Fantasmagoria" and what didn't? Well, for the most part the music here is rather top-notch. Especially the lead guitar solos from DGM's Simone Mularoni. Just now, as I'm listening to the album play in the background (I like to listen to an album once for review purposes and, if time allows, have it playing once more while I type up the actual article), the track "Now And Forever" is impressing me with it's killer, (heavy) power metal solo! Simone works well within the confines of Epysode and his playing is a real treat! And speaking of treats, we are also treated to the fabulous skills of both keyboardist Julien Spreutels (Ethernity) and bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X). Wait, rewind a second. Did I just say that this album featured fabulous keyboard playing? Indeed I did! Usually I steer clear of such things, but the keyboard and piano playing on "Fantasmagoria" gives this release a leg up on the competition. Unlike your typical progressive power metal groups, which includes projects like this with numerous guest vocalists, the vibe here is more along the lines of a sci-fi/fantasy soundtrack then anything else. So it's just not merely some "supergroup" power/prog project. No, this one is different and that is why it stands out. It might not be a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a cool listen and a release that sounds clean, crisp and clear thanks to the always reliable Jacob Hansen. Fans of the progressive power metal scene should enjoy this one of course while even your regular, 9-5, heavy metal types might just find enough here to satisfy their tastes!