With their last album Betraying The Martyrs somehow managed to catch the attention of the cool kids with the great tattoos and fashionable piercings as well as the more discerning bedroom based internet music geek. Does “Phantom” allow the band to continue to straddle that divide or have the band decided to nail their assortment of flags (the band is composed of French, British and Russian musicians) to one particular mast?
Frustratingly, they band haven’t really. There’s elements of something really sophisticated bubbling beneath the surface, but those moments are often overtaken by uninspired break downs or pointless breaks into extremity. When the band pull back on the accelerator and indulge some of their more brooding and atmospheric influences they can sound genuinely menacing and intense. They just have a tendency to let some of their startling musicianship run away with them. Mind you, if you could play this good you might well be tempted to do it as often as you can.
“Walk Away” is the first track where the band’s real potential becomes clear, and three tracks into a record that’s far too late. It’s stop-start dynamics mixed with delicate pianos and strings and anthemic vocal break prove to be an exhilarating listen. The euro-vision meets American deathcore “Let It Go” is the case of good ideas that don’t quite work together being bolted to each other. It’s melodic moments are excellent, but its more extreme moments sound out-of-place and jerky. Still, it’s difficult to deny that Betraying The Martyr’s trump most of the band’s on the Sumerian, but “Phantom” seems like a record made by a band who sometimes felt brave, and at other times felt compelled to play it safe.
The album picks up somewhat in its mid-section, with the stunning title track and the epic “What’s Left of You” but it still feels too little to late. A lot of these tracks will go down well on American touring festivals, but as a listening experience there’s too much familiarity here to encourage those who want something more than pit friendly passages of time to sit through all thirteen tracks.
“Phantom” isn’t the triumph a lot of people hoped for from Betraying The Martyrs. But its strongest tracks are better than anything on the band’s début release and much better than most of their peers on Sumerian. When this band are on point they’re unstoppable juggernauts of contemporary heavy music. The rest of the time…they’re unfortunately a touch pedestrian.
“Phantom” is released 14/7/14 on Sumerian Records.