PHANTOM V – Play II Win

It’s pretty much impossible to write a Phantom V review without mentioning Bonfire. Phantom V started out as Supremacy back in 2015 when lead singer Claus Lessmann had been fired from Bonfire. I’m not gonna go into that story again – it’s in the review of their last album to read about. Formed by Lessmann and guitarist Michael Voss (ex Casanova, Mad Max, Bonfire. Michael Schenker) but they changed their name to Phantom V close to the release of their self-titled debut album last year. Said album was surprisingly good and fact is, it sounds more like Bonfire than Bonfire do today. Lots of it has to do with Lessmann’s voice, of course, but Phantom V’s sound is also very close to that classic Bonfire sound and since Lessmann was the guy who kept Bonfire going for all those years, that’s hardly eye-brow rising. Bonfire, on the other hand, has had a hard time with lead singers since the firing of Lessmann, but that’s another review. With a solid debut album in their back pocket this album did come with some expectations – especially since it was only a year since the debut came out. Now, Phantom V are more of a project than a real band – which is a shame – and since they haven’t been doing any touring yet so I guess they spent their time writing songs and recording.

“The Change In You” opens the album and it’s pretty easy to recognize the Phantom V sound. It sounds like a heavier continuation of the debut album. It’s a melodic but pretty rough hard rock song, pretty straight forward, ballsy with a steady rhythm. The chorus is memorable and catchy but not in a “let’s write a hit song” way. A great song and very suitable as an opener. The single “Crossfire” screams 1987 but a bit more updated. The guitars and keyboards makes a great team in the mix, very well arranged and the chorus really hits home. I get a major Bonfire vibe from the tune and it’s a very good choice as a single. “Baptised” goes more into arena rock territory with a sleazier vibe and a nod to Sunset Strip back in the early 90’s. If you mix that with Bonfire around 1987 you will get a pretty good picture of how this tune sounds. A good rocker with catchy melodies all over the tune – very good.

“Read Your Mind” comes along with some major hit potential. It’s a bit more AOR laden than the previous songs but still a stellar rocker, not a far cry from Bonfire’s Fireworks (1987) days. Great tune! The title track is more straight forward mid 80’s hard rock. It will probably do well from the stage because of its more raunchy live feel here, but as a song I find it only ok and nothing special. “Child Soldiers” takes a more dark tone with a pumping, heavy groove. It’s not metal but ‘heavy rock’ would be a fitting description. This is a typical album track that will probably never become a single. But the heaviness marries fine with the striking melodies and I hold it as one of the finest moments here. “Do You Believe In Love” is another dark tune in the heavier vein that has more in common with classic hard rock than melodic rock. It is still very big on melodies that sticks without being the least radio friendly. Great track.

And the heaviness stays for the third track in a row with “Phantom Child”. The heaviness is mixed with lots of memorable melodies, a stomping groove and a very catchy refrain that mixes classic melodic hard rock from the mid 70’s with more melodic rock of the 80’s and it works splendidly. “Had Enuff” sounds so much like classic Bonfire it could be an unreleased Bonfire track from the late 80’s. It’s a catchy, melodic rock track, good enough but not that exceptional. “Shadows Dance” is very much a standard hard rock tune, pretty heavy, pretty melodic, nothing new under the sun at all. But it works anyway and despite the lack of identity, I find myself humming along at the end of the song. Good tune. Phantom V says goodbye for this time with a big power ballad called “Reach Out”. It starts out very stripped with only piano and vocals but it speeds up to a faster pop groove. It’s catchy and sports a sound that would have fitted Bonfire’s Knock Out (1991) album. A perfect way to close a record like this.

This is very much a heavier sister album to the debut and just like the debut, this is an album for Bonfire fans that misses said band’s hey-days. Because Phantom V still sounds more like Bonfire than the 2017 version of Bonfire – and they are very good at doing this kind of music. This album won’t change the world of rock by any means – this is 80’s laden arena rock – fun, positive and great for the party and the guys are all stellar musicians and boy do we need music like this in a time and age when the world’s in turmoil. I would strongly recommend this album not only to Bonfire fans but to melodic rock fans in general. And yes, it’s a bit better than the (also very good) debut!

8/10

More Phantom V reviews:

Phantom V

Tracklist:

1. The Change In You
2. Crossfire
3. Baptised
4. Read Your Mind
5. Play To Win
6. Child Soldiers
7. Do You Believe In Love
8. Phantom Child
9. Had Enuff
10. Shadows Dance
11. Reach Out

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