Handed to Execution
I recently stumbled upon this blackened thrash act hailing from Guadalajara, Mexico. The menacing artwork on the cover caught my attention right away, so I checked them out on Bandcamp. I was pleasantly surprised how much I quickly got into them and realized they are relatively a fresh act that just formed in 2021.
In 2022, Phantom released three demos and a split; a prolific accomplishment for such a young band if you ask me. So another year into their existence and presto...a debut CD is in the offering entitled Handed to Execution. It was released just 4 days shy of Halloween on Inframetal Records and limited to only 300 copies produced.
My first impressions are favourably high as soon as the ripping sounds on the opening track invade my ears. The track is called "Winds of Havok" and it doesn't disappoint when the guitars go off like chainsaws grinding into human flesh. Judging upon this opening little ditty you can tell right away they mean business. The second track "Reaper's Bane" is fuelled with punk rock intensity and accompanied by vocals courtesy of J.,C. Garcia who snarls intently into his mic like a rabid dog in heat. He's also credited as one of the guitarists, so pulling double duty here is commendable.
Just from these two songs alone, I can hear the influences of early Sodom and Kreator. The old school flavour of lethal sounding blackened thrash is quite evident right from the start. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's something that I wanted to point out early on.
Now on to the title track "Handed to Execution". This is a true thrasher in every sense of the word when the relentless chug jumps out at the start. The riffing is infectious and the song slightly reminds me of Fuelled by Fire, another modern thrash act that really enjoys bringing chugging riffs to perfection. This is followed up by "Usurpers of the Throne" and it brings similar intensity and doesn't let up, but by this point you can see the familiar pattern emerging within the core sound of the band.
The next few tracks are speedy death-ragers with just a slight punky touch thrown into the mix. The song "Necrophex" is adventurous sonically complete with sword and sorcery lyrics and vocals that veer into the darkest recesses of hell itself. I will admit, the vocals are so harsh that it might actually wear out on some listeners. I wasn't a fan at first, but after a few repeats with this album the style has grown on me. A good example here really hits home perfectly in the next track "Speedhammer". The composition is just shy of the three minute mark and J.C. can barely keep up with the relentless speed, so the vocals are practically unintelligible.
Don't let that deter you though overall. The guitars really drive their sound and if you stick it out; songs like "Ravager Hunts" and "Payback" can assuage your ears and get you into the mood to mosh. The speed metal intensity is something I appreciate here and we have Harel O and J.C Garcia to thank for the frenetic work of their guitars. Again, these boys shine on the closer "Hold Fast" with a bevy of blistering riffs and old school bite.
As far as debut albums go, Phantom wear their influences on their sleeves. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but usually you can suss out the bands being referenced when a new group is starting out. I dig the early Teutonic thrash sound coming out of Germany in the early days of the genre, and I like how those sounds are used in homage and not entirely copied verbatim. The only drawback is the vocals tend to be a bit too harsh at times and need a little punching up, but that really is a minor nit-pick. Overall, this is a good debut for a band with their whole career ahead of them.
Favourite tracks: Reaper's Bane, Necrophex and Speedhammer
I'm giving this a solid 7 out of 10 skulls.
Kenneth Gallant, HMS