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“…I hear the thunder, the distant roar, black vultures take wing, rumors of war…”
Here’s a band with some halfway decent ingredients that were stirred by a record label more interested in other things. Actually I have no way of knowing that, but I don’t recall seeing any real promotion for the album or hearing any significant airplay, and with New Renaissance’s less-than-stellar reputation, well, you get the picture. Maybe I just had my head up my butt. I do admit, however, never really giving this band a chance with sporadic half-hearted listens, usually plopping it on while playing a video game or reading toothpaste ingredients. So here I stand with nothing better to do, the pile of Quicksilver albums in front of me that I should be grading getting dustier, and the quartet from the Big Apple get another shot.
At times remindful of a watered down Hades that has borrowed the simplistic song structuring of Grim Reaper that has leaked some of its catchiness, Dead or Alive’s relatively powerless production saps more possible invigoration from the power/heavy metal resonance Phantom roam the land with, oil lamp in hand as they search for an identity. It’s obvious Falcon Eddie paid his vocal instructor on time, his chords accomplished, high-flying, and occasionally Steelheart-ish, but they’re also comparably undefined within a genre where James Rivera, Lizzy Borden, Alan Tecchio, Vic Wright and at least two dozen other voxmen dwell, and his vocals are the best part of the album.
The leakage of the rhythmic foundation starts slowly with the title cut, a track that could’ve been a contender with its unconcealed Grim Reaper-ish chorus and fair hustle, but when the unexpected keyboard solo resembles those on Dream Theater’s Images and Words lp…I don’t know what they were thinking either. “Under the Gun” is more bustling yet, second only to “Black Widow” in quickness and aural achievement, meanwhile “Punish the Sinners” is a boiler lurking with latent power, the chorus releasing pressure through bursts of manly backing vocals and an even array of Eddie’s screaming pipes. The leak surges as “The Stand” is averagely up-tempo at its peak to end the side.
During a block in the drainage, “Black Widow” surges with a vibrant arrangement of riffs complimented with the learned soprano no song goes without. It would later be discovered the blockage was from a ‘best on album’ trophy etched with the song’s name. A heavier guitar tone could’ve shoved the opening minutes of “Take Me Down Slow” onto more gripping terrain, but with a plushy middle and ending carpeted with creamy keyboards and vocals that’ve been run through a soul mill, the song stands as a friendly radio spot that probably never saw an antennae. A light, conventional bustle resumes in the average galloper “Dead of Night”, meanwhile the pace enlivens a tad more for finale “Turbocharged”, a track a pinch catchier than its predecessor, and the solo sounds like it was recorded ten feet underground or underwater and in the vicinity of a talkative humpback whale.
It’s not a contemptible lp. It’s just, well, unimportant. I swear this lp is never mentioned, but should it be? Sure, it’s good enough to throw on and know it’s not garbage, but it’s not one of your top twenty disks to grab for a long road trip or to run to your car for during a hailstorm. I think the Drew Elliot cover drawing was picked during a game of blindfolded darts, ‘cos if it has anything to do with the band/album theme, I’m missing it.