Review Summary: Despite some extremely obvious Metallica influences, Set the Phantom Afire is one of this years freshest modern thrash albums.
Modern thrash is fairly stale despite only having about half a decade to make itself present. For every Warbringer
, there's a Hyades
or Diamond Plate
, as while there are fairly distinctive bands in the current wave of thrash, there's a veritable army of identikit bands that take unoriginal approaches to their sound (or not so much "their sound", as the sound of Exodus
). Battalion aren't especially original either, but they get away with it due to catchy songwriting and skilled instrumentation; and for those who've been waiting for a good Metallica album
, here it is.
One cannot quite emphasize how much Battalion's second album, Set the Phantom Afire
sounds like one of Metallica's early albums. Melodic leads and catchy, strait-forward riffs that are executed at high speed are the order of the day here, but it goes beyond that. Opening track Buried Nation
crosses Damage Inc., Battery and Blackened quite clearly, while the following track Dead Men Tell No Tales
might as well be the new Fight Fire With Fire. While this might be somewhat grating initially, it's actually a pretty solid formula to use, given that despite its unoriginality, it's an entertaining style and it works pretty well in a modern environment where more technical styles are prominent, giving a surprisingly refreshing blast of energy with the melody and technical capabilities to support it.
The overall instrumentation is strong all-round. The guitar work is fast and energetic, with a series of fast and powerful riffs with a good mix of technicality and force giving the album a good background for the various melodic and technical leads which are of excellent quality. The bass is fairly audible and follows the guitars capably, while the drums manage to vary between fast double bass lines and more simplistic lines that keep the action moving with great energy. The vocal performance is strong as well, with a roar that is easily comparable to James Hetfield, but with some texture that is similar to Rage
vocalist Peter Wagner, which works in an entertaining fashion as one would expect. The overall production is good too, with each instrument having considerable punch and a strong place in the mix, though the bass could be mixed a bit higher.
Battalion's style works best when it's at its most melodic. The aforementioned opener Buried Nation
works excellent, with some great guitar work paired with a catchy chorus and a strong lead. Likewise, Bomber
works well once it gets past its somewhat dull opening riff, and the title track features a strong variety of sounds and speeds that work to its advantage well. Some other tracks provide effective performances with a somewhat less melodic approach, such as the slower Underdogs
and the energetic Drifting Towards Insanity
that respectively work effective due some excellent riffs and solos, but the album doesn't quite make tracks such as Mullet Head
and Oppression Department
, not quite bringing anything distinctive to the table that play to their advantage.
Despite some issues with the end of the album not quite weighing up to the first half, the album is great throughout. It's not a huge stand out, mostly due to the overall unoriginality and the aforementioned weaker tracks, but it's an entertaining album that manages to be a lot more energetic and fresh than other modern thrash albums despite its clear Metallica influence.
Set The Phantom Afire
Drifting Towards Insanity
Possessed By Satan