Amongst the endless number of traditional heavy metal bands that have popped up, no single scene has created more brilliant releases than Toronto’s. While Cauldron and Skull Fist are probably the two names that first come to mind, the list doesn’t end there. There are others: Midnight Malice, Axxion, and probably even more that I don’t know of, but the one that everybody needs to hear is Phantom. This three-piece formed after another heavy metal band, Ash Lee Blade, split up. With their debut EP, “The Powers That Be”, it is clear that Phantom is an experienced, tight songwriting unit that gives a memorable performance.
The moment the opening drum solo in “The Powers That Be” ends, you’ll be hit by the best part of this EP: the furious bass playing of Necro Hippie (yes, that is the name he goes by!). It’s like he was able to go back to 1983 to figure out exactly how Steve Harris got his godly bass tone on “Piece of Mind” and replicate that for this release. What’s even better than his bass tone is the playing itself. While the bass work is definitely quite busy, it is always playing a line that adds a lot of value to the song, as opposed to simply following the guitars. Aside from the great bass playing, the other instruments in this band fall in line with what you’d expect for a traditional heavy metal band. The guitar riffs are powerful, yet simple. They are by no means the most original riffs in existence, but they’re so catchy that it really doesn’t matter. The vocals compliment this perfectly. D.D. Murley’s voice tends to stay in an upper-middle range, but does not sound anything like a power metal singer, and only infrequently reaches the screams that a band like Skull Fist loves. This is a good thing, as it helps differentiate Phantom from the crowd. The songwriting on this EP is utterly fantastic. The first three tracks alone are guaranteed to stick in your head for hours after you first spin “The Powers That Be”. These songs are all upbeat rockers that delve into the territory of speed metal. The second half of the EP features a couple longer tracks, but they never get boring, or feel overlong. “Edge of the Night/Rikar’s Beard” has a riff that is straight out of Scorpions’ early 80’s material, but is a refreshing change from the speedy assault of the other songs. In fact, this song is the longest and most unique of the 6 tracks, but ultimately, is my least favourite. With that said, it isn’t because it bad, it’s just a testament to how strong the other 5 songs are. Closing track “Citizen Pain” brings back the intensity and is a solid closer to a great release.
Phantom is a band that I cannot recommend enough. While there is only one truly unique aspect to the band (the phenomenal bass playing), the songwriting is too strong to pass over. It would not surprise me to see them pass other traditional heavy metal giants from Toronto in only a few years. If you have any interest in the classic, old-school sounds of metal, you need to own “The Powers That Be”.
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"The Powers That Be"
"Keepers of the Flame"
4.6/5 or 92%.
Written by Scott