Phantom is the current album from Chris Brockbank’s Phantom MK V (the 5th version of Phantom) – an album that has been out for almost a year now. Brockbank has had various incarnations of Phantom since the early 70s, and has been a stalwart on the Oz hard rock/blues scene for over 40 years.
I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, but the Blackmore infused heavy prog/blooze is at odds with the cover art – which I initially thought was an album by a Euro death metal band. Idiosyncrasies aside – musically what is presented here is an eclectic collection of heavy rock/blues tunes with broad appeal.
If you are fan of Deep Purple/Gillan consider this is an essential purchase. Tunes like ‘Rapid Fire’ will appeal to Blackmore and prog fans alike, with a savagely distinct Brockbank solo and typically strong vocal delivery by vocalist Steve Mulry (TMG – ex Black Label). This is a rock solid tune, and one of the highlights of the record. Like much of the other material, the Jon Lord-like keyboards feature heavily in the mix.
‘One O Clock’ follows the same stoic adherence to the classic Purple/Prog formulae. The playing is top notch, yet lacks a catchy hook. ‘Teresa’ saunters along to a more traditional blues line, yet doesn’t really go anywhere, and similarly, could benefit from a stronger hook on the chorus. The same can’t be said for ‘Teenage Fantasy’, which has more melody, a catchier chorus and a sturdy and clear Mulry vocal. It has the makings of a good heavy pop song, yet morphs into prog-wanderings which could have been trimmed.
I dig the riff heavy ‘So Clear’ with its heavy groove and Rainbowesque quality – yet again, there’s no hook on the chorus. With its mix of highs and lows (including towering verses) ‘Secret’ is out and out heavy rock joy – complete with a shredding solo. Curious to hear this stripped back, minus the keys, which at times are overrepresented in the mix. I get that keys/organ are a big part of the Phantom sound – and that’s not a criticism – just an objective observation. Hell, even Claude Schnell knew his place!
‘Keep On Rock n Rollin’ is pure 70’s hard rock – and a killer tune. Radio friendly, hooks – and more Borich than Blackmore! Get down, this one cooks.
In summary, there’s a lot to like about Phantom MK V. The players are all seasoned and the musicianship first rate. The sound is clear and crisp, and for fans of Purple (Blackmore and Lord in particular), this is a no risk proposition. There are engaging organ improvisations, Brockbank’s guitar attacks, and Mulry’s candid, strong vocals. There’s also some great heavy rock tunes, elements of prog, and enough appeal for blues fans too.
A lot of good songs here, yet if they have a bit more hook, a bit more punch/melody on the chorus – they could be great ones. Whilst some fans dig experimental jams/wanderings, I would like to see them reined in a little. A song can be controlled or even measured – without forsaking any expression. Having said that – still a first rate heavy rock album from a guy who has more than paid his dues. 7/10
Available now on Bad Reputation or via www.phantommkv.com