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The Wolves really were at the Door - 67%

Acrobat, June 14th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2008, CD, Cult Metal Classics Records

I feel like the opener on this record has a very appropriate title for a US-based traditional heavy metal band in the early 90s. Fleeting successes, an increasingly unfriendly marketplace, being stuck in-between the warring titans of thrash and glam (can’t we all just be friends?) and what with the friendlier climes of Europe being a long, long way away, it must have really felt like the wolves were at the door.

That said, Phantom don’t really do themselves many favours; they’re not one of those bands that are renowned for flash or gimmicks. They’re just a great sounding band who happened to have some great songs here and there (they’d ascend to a higher plain on their ’93 opus, Cyberchrist, which would have been released to an even more disinterested public). However, what sets Phantom apart is their understated nature, their penchant for Stephen King and Falcon Eddie’s downright classy tones. Furthermore, the band managed to pinch some of Germany’s excellent metal production services even if they never got the chance to play in metal’s heartland.

Whereas Phantom’s follow-up is more of a high-octane, Painkiller-esque album (that is, if the said Priest album had metalised blood instead of Viagra pumping in its veins), this album is more laid-back and forlorn. I don’t want to say bluesy, as that might make you think of something more 70s orientated. That said, however, these songs do have plenty of room to breathe. Guitars don’t just race ahead, even when it comes to leads, and Falcon Eddie has plenty of room to crone even if he can still scream like a banshee. ‘The Pleasure of Pain’ best demonstrates this with its weary, heartbroken style; it’s more rock orientated than anything on Cyberchrist and actually all the better for it. ‘The Dead Pool’ further demonstrates this as it’s far more groovy than anything the band would attempt. That’s one of Phantom’s successes, though, they’re very able at different types of metal songs; which puts them far closer to Priest than many other of the bands who love apeing the leather loving Brummies.

That said, the chance of pace on the follow-up certainly gives Cyberchrist the edge as the band were just way more consistently entertaining on that album. I give songs like ‘Wolves at the Door’ and ‘The Pleasure of Pain’ just as many spins as the best tracks on Cyberchrist but there’s no way I’d spend as much time playing this album from back to front. Given its ten song running time it tends to suffer a little bit from “early CD years – must-have-more-songs-on-album” syndrome.

Overall, I can’t really give a ringing endorsement to this album. It’s fun while it’s on and the highlights really hit high but there’s a fair bit of drag here. Still, check out Cyberchrist which really knocks it out of the park. Still, this album sits well sonically alongside Virgin Steele's early 90's stuff, apes Dio and could happily satisfy fans of somewhat rocky metal ala Riot.