Phantom-X - Rise of the phantom 3.5/5
1. Storms of hell (chapter 1)
3. Rise of the phantom (chapter 2)
4. Plenty evil
6. Nekron 9000
7. Pain machine
8. Edge of the earth
9. Metal warrior
10. Discovery (chapter 3)
11. The mask (chapter 4)
12. Blood of the moon
13. Steel winged fury
Yet another American hopeful throws its hat into the ring for the old-school traditional metal sweepstakes. This particular entrant is Phantom-X, who hail from Texas and feature current Omen singer Kevin Goocher in their midst as both vocalist and primary songwriter. Don't know much about the history of the band, but from the photos in the CD booklet I'd be willing to wager that this quartet is comprised of crusty, experienced veterans of the local music scene who've been plying their trade for many years. Nonetheless, 'Rise of the phantom' is their debut CD, having been released late last year on Mausoleum Records.
Stylistically, Phantom-X play it safe on 'Rise of the phantom', never deviating from the anthemic mid-to-late-80s American sound built on simple but sturdy riffs, repetitive but catchy choruses, straightforward arrangements, and a largely midtempo vibe. You've heard this kind of stuff dozens of times before (e.g., Dio, slower Metal Church, streamlined Omen, Aftershok, older Cage, Malice, Lizzy Borden, etc.), but it's executed well here. Phantom-X are all about meat and potatoes, not flash and bombast. Opener "Storms of hell" kicks things off in fine form, and cuts like the vintage "Metal warrior" (which supposedly dates back to 1982 and is dedicated here to the memory of Dimebag Darrell), "Pain machine", and especially the barnstorming "Steel winged fury" are guaranteed to satisfy grizzled headbangers. "Enchanted" sounds like a leftover track from Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath. And "Blood on the Moon" is a somewhat creepy, doomy and cool duet between Goocher and Solitude Aeturnus's resident vocal deity, Robert Lowe, who sounds typically godly here and renewed my periodic jonesin' for a new S.A. recording. It's only been 5 years, right guys? Fortunately, reports are rampant that 2006 will bring the triumphant return of Solitude Aeturnus. Watch this space for a full review if and when that happens. But alas, I digress...
The overwhelming operative adjective here is "solid". The individual performances are solid, the songs (with a couple of exceptions that lean towards filler) are solid, and the production job courtesy of Sterling Winfield (renowned for his work on King Diamond and Mercyful Fate productions, among others) is solid. Singer Goocher comes across as a slightly raspier version of J.D. Kimball (R.I.P.), whom he replaced in Omen, or perhaps a cleaner, more tuneful iteration of Grave Digger's Chris Boltendahl. Everything is done here with enthusiasm and class.
In some sense, reviews like this are superfluous. There are no surprises here, and you probably already know whether you'll like it or you won't. If you are a fan of vintage American traditional metal, you'll find much to enjoy about Phantom-X, but don't expect to be blown away. If 80s-influenced traditional American metal is not your bag, then absolutely nothing about this CD will give you cause to reconsider. For my money, though, there's always a place for bands like Phantom-X in my CD changer. They may not leave my jaw on the floor, but they always leave a smile on my face with their reliable, fun, and well done homage to the old style of American metal, hearkening back to a simpler time long before the days of mallcore and nu tendencies polluted the American airwaves and broadband. I understand that Phantom-X have just returned to American shores after a run of successful tour dates with Canadian legends, Anvil. Here's hoping for some Southeastern U.S. tour dates in the coming months!
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