Review: Black Phantom – Zero Hour Is Now

Release: 2020/03/20

Black Phantom is a heavy metal band from Italy who was founded in 2014, initially as a solo project of bass player Andrea Tito. In my opinion, the Milan-based quintet deserves your attention, if you go for classic stuff without any frills.

Zero Hour Is Now, released on Punishment 18 Records, is Black Phantom’s second full-length. Honestly, I’ve never listened to their debut, called Better Beware! (2017). Well, that was obviously a mistake. As I said, these Italians celebrate the golden era of authentic heavy metal. You shouldn’t therefore expect any big surprises, the songwriting is rather conventional – but I definitely won’t complain about this fact, on the contrary: the heroes of this genre are getting older and older, many of them will retire in the near future. That’s why I’m really happy with outfits like Black Phantom who keep the spirit alive with passion and solid, well-crafted compositions.

All of the lyrics and songs are written by founder Andrea Tito, only the vocal lines were created by singer Manuel Malini. These amazing, frequently catchy vocal lines are unquestionably one of the strengths of Zero Hour Is Now. Besides, Malini sounds a lot like Bruce Dickinson – his singing style especially reminds me of the best solo outputs of our beloved Air Raid Siren, namely Accident of Birth and The Chemical Wedding, two of my favourite heavy metal albums of all time. He stands out with some truly majestic choruses which convey a lot of emotions. One can claim that his voice isn’t very unique because of the strong resemblance to Iron Maiden’s frontman, but he’s undoubtedly a gifted artist who knows his business.

The varied guitar work by Luca Belbruno and Roberto Manfrinato is an interesting component, too – there’s a lot to discover, even after many spins. The riffs are often remarkably heavy and gloomy, just listen to »The Road« or »Aboard the Rattling Ark«, for instance – if you prefer an constantly uplifting guitar tone, you probably won’t like Black Phantom’s approach, which also seems to be inspired by the aforementioned records.

Fortunately, the mix can largely keep up with the performance of the musicians: The sound is decent, perhaps a bit too thin, but every instrument is audible, especially the bass guitar sounds better than on many other releases.

Zero Hour Is Now contains a lot of potential underground heavy metal hits. It’s nearly impossible to point out a highlight – if you urge me to name at least one track, I would choose the engrossing opener »Redemption«. Or maybe »Hordes of Destruction« with its very British guitar melodies? Well, »The Road« has much to offer as well… The German version of »Schattenjäger« is quite amusing and deserves special praise! It’s obvious, I just can’t decide, sorry for that…

On the whole, Black Phantom delivers an entertaining, mainly mid-paced album which will please almost every fan of classic tunes. Therefore, one can classify the second full-length of the five Italians as convincing in every aspect. Give it a listen – I’m quite sure you won’t regret it.

In any case a buy recommendation from me!

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