Phantom of the Black Hills – Reviews
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Phantom of the Black Hills
Ratchet Blade Records
Few albums take me by such a complete surprise as the debut by Phantom of the Black Hills’ “Ghosts”. From the first sounds of a fiddle decompose into a thuddingly dreadful banjo pluck on “Confessions of a Barn Burner” we know that there is an evil journey ahead of us.
Bluegrass banjo plucking behind the aggressive, nearly punk vocals dominate the album. The quality of the balance between the zero-twang vocals, top notch banjo playing, and Gun Club style punk meets country percussion cannot be understated. A misstep in any of these areas could have pushed the sound into one genre or another, but the album perfectly straddles the border between punk and country.
Sampling of women’s warnings, sermon’s, and what is presumed to be movie or radio blurbs are found throughout and are yet another risky addition that proved to be done perfectly. The samples add a mystique and vintage atmosphere to the album that would be lacking without. This is pushed to the limit on “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They”; a four minute galloping sound collage that Fatboy Slim and Satan would have made in the 1800’s.
“Ghosts” manages to avoid the biggest pitfall of albums in the Gothic Americana genre: pretentiousness. All too often, even established artists (yeah, we are talking about -), push the nostalgic or demonic angle too hard and it comes off as forced and fake.
“Ghosts” is by far not only one of the best albums of 2009, but is definitely Required Rodentia.
Wolves Hollow Magazine
What do you get when you cross the rougher side of Hank Williams III with Samhain’s classic debut “Initium”? You get “Ghosts”, the first album from the black as pitch two-man cowpunk nightmare known as Phantom Of The Black Hills. Consisting of members the Phantom and Popeye, POTBH is all venom, misery, blood and dust. A devil’s concoction of country music instrumentation (banjo, steel guitar and fiddle) and punk rock rage and song structures, “Ghosts” is one of the most ambitious and original records I’ve heard in some time, coming across like the bizarre lost soundtrack to the film There Will Be Blood, and it succeeds on every level. If Glenn Danzig and Al Jourgensen stayed up all night listening to old Porter Wagoner and Hank Sr. records and drinking homemade corn liquor, then decided to make an album together, it still wouldn’t come close to the bleak, inventive darkness of this eleven-track hatework. Can’t recommend it enough.
NY Waste Magazine
Phantom of the Black Hills
Born To Gun
Ratchet Blade Records
Hailing from the depths of Hades comes the Phantom of the Black Hills. Hillbilly, banjo pickin’ madness from your darkest nightmares. Mysterious masked men dressed like bandits stirring up timely images of train robbin’ outlaws dancing with saloon girls. One of my favorite tracks is the cacophonic frenzy called “Whorehouse” which indulges in sexy porn samples among other naughty things. Upright bass and evil lyrics hidden behind executioner style masked men. “Born To Gun” is a stunning, unique, sinister medley of Hellbilly, country and bluegrass with an unhealthy dose of industrial noise thrown in for proper measure. True Grit inspired by highwaymen and outlaws. Make rock and roll rebellious again, check it out.
Karol Kaos – NY Waste
Ox Magazine (Germany)
Finally, a band from that stands out from the musical pabulum: PHANTOM OF THE BLACK HILLS are in a separate category that really speaks for them. There are some musicians that go in a similar direction (Hellbilly or Doom Country) such as Hank III and ASSJACK, Hipbone Slim or in the broadest sense Bob Wayne. The CRAMPS have already proved in the Seventies what depth this kind of sound can have. You can hear the CRAMPS in the PHANTOM OF THE BLACK HILLS, which is probably because the album was produced by their ex-bassist Chopper Franklin and mixed by punk legend Geza X (DEAD KENNEDYS, BLACK FLAG etc.). The special feature is the Phantom’s especially brutal use of fiddle and banjo, which is reinforced by striking guitar riffs and very critical lyrics. Overall, the result is a brutal, varied album, suitable for both line dancing as well as the Pogo. (9 stars) Igor Eberhard, Ox-Fanzine, Germany
UBER ROCK (UK)
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
Phantom of the Black Hills, one of the outlaw music scene’s favorite bands of renegade pickers, stummers, pluckers and bangers, is back with a new album on Ratchet Blade Records, Moonshine Bright. Continuing to terrorize the musical wagon trail of the current roots revival with their signature sound of doom country, frontier-core and hellbilly punk, Phantom of the Black Hills’ most recent collection of songs is as powerful and violent as the fiery blast of an old blunderbuss, with each deadly projectile hitting a different mark.
Throughout Moonshine Bright Phantom of the Black Hills lay down some mean distorted chords, plenty of pickin’ and strummin’, hillbilly fiddin’, strong drums, and gritty outlaw vocals. The opening song, which is also the title track, is as dirty and intoxicating and homegrown as the contents of the musical barrel in which it was distilled. “Hellbetties Risin’,” the first single from Moonshine Bright, is a raw cowpunk offering with male and female vocals, is as sharp as the edge of a boot knife. “In Hell” takes a lawbreaker anthem which rides like hell for the horizon, loot in hand, putting some distance between oneself and the hangman’s noose, yet knowing full well that when the times comes hell will be one’s ultimate destination. “The Storm is my Shelter” is about as close to traditional country music as Phantom of the Black Hills get, but it is still pretty far removed from the purist idea of the genre, which is decidedly a good thing. The closer, “A Life for an Eye,” is a little different from the rest of the album in that it is garagey roots rock and dark country punk hybrid.
Moonshine Bright by Phantom of the Black Hills is available from the Ratchet Blade Records webstore here.
by James G. Carlson
read the review online by clicking HERE