PHANTOM FIRE “Bust of Beelzebub”

By Dr. Abner Mality

Rarely have I heard a record go off the rails so completely and utterly as the debut from this Norwegian outfit. It still boggles my mind how these guys killed their own momentum here. It’s an absolute head-scratcher of a release.

When PHANTOM FIRE kicks things off, they deliver some sharp and edgy black n’ roll tunes that combine speedy raw rawk with a touch of Norse darkness. “Return of the Goat” and the title track are both cool, fiery tunes that stick the knife in, twist it a bit and then jerk it out quickly. Not quite thrash, not quite black metal, but definitely appealing to fans of both subgenres. Then “Sweet Jezebel” tosses us a big, fat juicy riff that hits a different note but still keeps the head nodding. Maybe a bit like the better KVERLATAK…

I was getting ready for more blackened rocky goodness, but then PHANTOM FIRE loses their minds. “Pharow” is a slow, boring soundscape like a cheap horror movie soundtrack. Sometimes tunes like this can work...not this time. Even when it gets heavy and raw in the last minute, it doesn’t help. Wow! What a momentum killer! OK, now back to the ragers. Oh, wait, no...”Shut Eye” starts slow, acoustic and even MORE boring! What in hell has happened to these guys?! The song again gets heavy and gooey in the second half, but the main riff is just dullsville. OK, I can understand bands wanting to be weird and changing things up...but it’s got to be done in a way that keeps your interest. “Shut Eye”...never has there been a more aptly named track.

“Feed The Fire” returns to the rockier, angrier sound but damage has been done. This is OK, but not the equal of the first three songs. And how does PHANTOM FIRE choose to end this album? With the longest, dullest song of all! “The Ninth Gate” is just mellow, interminable and awful.

This album is absolutely BIZARRE! The band that did the first three songs has no relation to the one that did the rest of the album. I cannot explain what happened to PHANTOM FIRE here. But an album I originally thought was going to get a big thumbs up winds up with a “meh” and “WTF?”