Phantom exploded onto the Toronto metal scene in 2013 with the release of “The Powers That Be”. That EP easily ranks among the greatest traditional heavy metal Toronto has put forth (which is a bold statement given the scene’s current selection of bands). About a year and a half later, the band is releasing their first full-length record “…of Gods and Men”, and it shows some serious development from their first release.
The album opens with a short instrumental entitled “Megalith”. This song is unlike anything the band has done before, as it is so incredibly heavy and crushing that one might mistake this for a death metal record. Though there aren’t any blast beats, the drumming is spacious and makes excellent use of cymbals to create an ominous mood that is enhanced by some wah-affected bass playing. This bass sound is the biggest difference between Phantom’s first and second releases; on the EP it was so high up in the mix that it made Steve Harris sound quiet. By contrast, on this album, the bass is mixed quite a bit lower, though is still easy to pick out (particularly when it is playing one of its many solos).
The key to any great traditional heavy metal record is to be filled with fist-pumping anthems. Phantom wastes no time delivering these, as the first full-length song, “Children of the Stars”, proves to be a charging, energetic affair that will get some necks moving. Additionally, the chorus is easy to sing along to, and is sure to be stuck in your head after a single listen. It isn’t long, however, before the band one-ups this song with something even more potent. “Blood & Iron” is the lead single from this album, and it’s easy to see why. The chorus of this song is dangerously catchy, to the point where it will probably be the first thing that many people associate with this album. It’s worth pointing out that Phantom’s hooks are not huge power metal-styled choruses. Sure, lead vocalist D.D. Murley is a great singer, but his vocal lines are a bit rougher and less soaring than one would hear from a singer such as Michael Kiske. Much of the album continues to display this inherent ability of the band to write songs that are incredibly memorable without being overly complex, or too simple. Other highlights in this fashion include the title track and “The Devil In Me”.
The most interesting song on “…of Gods and Men” is the near 8 and a half minute instrumental “The Kings Road”. This song shows Phantom picking up on the subtleties of classic Iron Maiden tunes and Metallica instrumentals. As you may have guessed, this song is driven by Necro Hippie’s stellar bass playing. The track weaves its way in and out of various riffs and sections, but is highlighted by some great bass melodies, as well as a bass solo (a recurring theme on this record). Additionally, the song gets a bit more laid back at times and lets Murley take the lead with his guitar playing. Ultimately, this track is a huge highlight because it shows the band’s ability to create something a little bit outside the norm for traditional heavy metal.
It is hard to find fault with “…of Gods and Men”. This is an album that should please fans of all of the classic ‘80s groups, as well as fans of the newer ones. One thing I wouldn’t mind is incorporating more guitar solos. Murley is a talented shredder (as evidenced by his solo on “Children of the Stars”), and it would be great for him to showcase this more often. It’s clear that Phantom’s guitar playing isn’t meant to be flashy in the same way that fellow Toronto bands like Skull Fist and Axxion are, but on the other hand, a band like Cauldron shows how you can incorporate several guitar solos into a song without it sounding over the top or absurd. Nevertheless, this is a minor complaint on an otherwise stellar album. “…of Gods and Men” is a must-buy for fans of old-school traditional heavy metal!
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"Children of the Stars"
"Blood & Iron"
"The Kings Road"
"Of Gods and Men
4.6/5 or 92%.
Written by Scott