PHANTOM BAND – Checkmate Savage (Chemikal Underground)

The Phantom Band are a Scottish six-piece, who have managed to rope in Paul Savage as producer and engineer for their debut album. The fact that he used to be part of one of my favourite bands from north of the borders The Delgados can only be good news for this album, which turns out to be a great mix of influences from Krautrock and folk to Beefheart and experimental rock. ‘The Howling’ opens with burbling synths and then progresses through a number of different phases to produce an impressive opener. ‘Burial Sounds’ has a deep south swamp-rock feel to it, and ‘Folk Song Oblivion’ has a repetitive groove and motoric beat. ‘Crocodile’ is a Krautrock influenced instrumental, with its metronomic beat overlaid by squelches of sound and long chords on the keyboards, gradually building up to an overload of guitars, and then coasting down the other side to finish as it started. ‘Halfhound’ starts with a great riff, and then adds in Beefheartian rhythms for a great swamp-rocking tune. The centre-piece of the album is the nine minute ‘Islands’, with a deceptively simple country-rock guitar figure, banjo backing, and a gospel feel to the song, enhanced by the use of massed vocals on the verses giving it a Polyphonic Spree effect. ‘Throwing Bone’s is another sprightly rocker with some interesting vocals effects in the middle, and ‘The Whole Is On My Side’ closes the album with another lengthy ballad, this time a bit more up-tempo than ‘Islands, and with some nice guitar at the end. I must say that I was mightily impressed with this debut by this previously unknown outfit, and the fact that they have seemingly appeared from nowhere is even more surprising as I like to think that I keep up with emerging bands, but this disc is bound to generate more column inches for them as ‘Checkmate Savage’ is a brilliant album by any standards.
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