without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
To be honest it's surprising that this album was released by the same band as the self-titled debut that came five years earlier. Phantom Blue really improved in that time, morphing from a fairly generic and boring hard rock band into a decently interesting heavy metal band. Built to Perform is actually a very impressive release and I'm glad to say that my faith in Phantom Blue has paid off.
Right from the opener the main thing that strikes me as being different is the power of the guitars. On Phantom Blue we could expect a lah-di-dah kind of performance, laid back and easy to zone out while listening to. Here that is not the case, and there's no doubt this time that these girls are a metal band. That train of thought continues on throughout the album, and although there are moments where things are toned down like on My Misery, overall the album is forceful and thundering.
I find that the instrumentation is also more interesting than on the last album, once again most noticeably with the guitars. Suddenly it's very clear why Michelle Meldrum was regarded so highly, as when she's not relegated to playing rhythm she does some epic soloing and is really creative when it comes to the leads. There isn't a single track where I'm not wowed by what she does, compared to the band's first album (where she played rhythm) which I found to be lacking any kind of excitement. Regarding the drums not much has changed and it remains extremely simplistic, and although the bass remains an impressive asset it is somewhat buried behind the renewed interest of the guitars. That being said, I don't think I'd trade the guitar work for Gene Hoglan on the drums, it's Michelle Meldrum that makes this album such a joy to listen to.
I'm even surprised (but impressed) by the vocals. They're still a similar style (aggressive and in some senses similar to the likes of Dio or Bruce Dickinson), but for some reason they just seem to fit in here much better than they did on the last one. They're no longer forced into a place that they don't belong to serve as an irritation, and it really adds something to the band that would otherwise be missing. That's one of the biggest factors to Built to Perform being a great listen: everything works together. The first album was entirely built on individual pieces, but this time Phantom Blue must have realised that wasn't the way to go.
This is definitely more what I'd expected from Phantom Blue, and Built to Perform is an all-round high-quality record. Any fans of heavy metal or that like their classics should give this one a spin, and I can promise you that if you like fancy guitar work then you won't be disappointed.