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February 25, 2024

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Wreckage (Deep Six Records)

By: Jeb Branin

After the collapse of the original HIRAX, Katon W. DePena and Johny Tabares formed PHANTASM with original METALLICA bassist Ron McGovney. Tabares didn't stick around long being replaced by Gene Hoglan and then Jim Korthe. This CD is a re-release of their only recording, a six song demo from 1987 plus live tracks from an Arizona gig with NUCLEAR ASSAULT (15 tracks total). For 80s speed metal fans in general and HIRAX fans (both old and new) in particular this is a "must own" release. Musically PHANTASM is not too far removed from what HIRAX was doing although there is a greater emphasis on guitar heroics due to twin lead guitars! The music is also slightly less quirky than HIRAX, at times sounding not unlike the aforementioned NUCLEAR ASSAULT - especially on the live tracks. PHANTASM played a straight-for-the-throat brand of speed metal with the primary emphasis being placed on thrashing and raw intensity, not heavy guitar crunch. One reason this band (and HIRAX for that matter) still sound so relevant today is that they didn't try to make their sound fit the standard mold of the day. If you listen to other '87 era speed metal you'll hear a lot of commonality amongst those bands that PHANTASM just didn't share. A lot of that is thanks to Katon's vocals. NOBODY in metal sounded like he did. He was completely off the beaten path, doing his own thing. Best of all that is what came naturally to him. I never got the impression he was trying to be different, he just was, he probably didn't even fully realize it. Don't you just love it when something is "weird" but still works? I do.15
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