You remember how it was when you were a rock kid buying albums with your pocket money, selecting which ones were gonna go home with you purely on their cover art, generally finding out that they sucked all kinds of arse? Well, as the years have gone by, it usually works the other way: I look at an album cover now, sigh, and think of how much time I will waste listening to what lies inside and then trying to write something worthwhile about it, sometimes finding an unlikely gem.
Kinda happened that way with ‘Enemy’, the third album from the mysterious Phantom of the Black Hills.
Masked figures being lynched on the front cover, masked men holding banjos and big fucking knives on the back – this was going to be one of those 45 minutes that I wasn’t going to get back in a hurry, I guessed……but I guessed wrong.
With no clue as to who is actually behind the masks – I’d guess that the band is made up of the members of various other bands but I couldn’t (be arsed to) find out who on the ol’ interweb – I had no clue what to expect when I slipped the disc into my death deck; another of those ‘comedic’ stabs at a country album by someone who should know better was at the top of my list. Thankfully I was wrong again, way wrong.
‘Battle Cry’ opens the album and does exactly what it says on the tin. The Phantom is described as a hellbilly/doom country band and that’s exactly what I got….and a fine example of that curious genre chimera at that. There’s a whiff of the more cinematic moments of Rob Zombie’s newer solo material about the vocals, some Al Jourgensen too, before you remember that Al actually turned in his own attempt at this genre around a year ago; that album by Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters a bit of a mess, truth be told. ‘Enemy’ blows it away, sharp, rather than shit, shooter style.
The follow-up to 2010′s ‘Born To Gun’ album, itself following 2009′s ‘Ghosts’, ‘Enemy’ was produced by Cramps bassist Chopper Franklin and mixed by legendary punk producer Geza X (Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, The Germs), having me thinking once again that these mystery men are players in more than just the doom countryside. But I digress, it mattering little anyway – this is a great album; filthy of tongue, keenly-produced, and hugely impressive.
The album’s dirty dozen tracks fly by, making a mockery of its running time. From the aforementioned opener to ‘Read My Bible’, the album’s closing track, The Phantom and his bad pack mix traditional country instruments – the banjo, fiddle and mandolin, the secretive press release informing me, pushed more to the front than on the album’s predecessors – with distorted guitar and vocals, this album seemingly leaning more heavily on samples and loops: many prime examples of hard-hitting, controversial dialogue permeating the raw, rusty sounds of the record. “Violence is as American as apple pie” – yes, that’s a quote that we’ve heard many times before but here…it just seems right, a tight fit.
Whoever they really are, Phantom of the Black Hills cuts the throat of convention and bleeds out an album cooler than the blade of their frontman’s impressive weapon. The penultimate song on the album is ‘Call Your Bluff’ – sums it up really.
Read the review on the UBER ROCK site by clicking HERE