In Holland we have a saying that even a donkey won't hit the same stone twice. I have no idea whether this exists in English as well, but either way it sure applies to me. I must have about half a dozen Metallica tribute albums by now, and nearly all of them are decidedly dodgy. I should steer clear from tribute albums that have all these totally unknown bands on them, and quit giving them the benefit of the doubt at my own costs. Adrenaline Records of Italy have earlier released a Dream Theater tribute, "Voices", which included one disc with covers and one disc with original tracks by the artists who did the covering. I listened to it in the record shop and, after hearing singer upon singer fail badly (near-phonetic pronunciation, unstable vocals, what have you) I decided to let it pass. Somehow, "Phantom Lords - a Tribute to Metallica" succeeded in convincing me that I should buy it.

For starters, the sound quality is good. Excellent production on almost all the tracks. But, as usual, it's the singers that screw things up. Totally. Blackend's "And Justice for All", Mystic Force's "Master of Puppets" and particularly Moksha's "The Four Horsemen" make fillings jump out of yer teeth. Production might be good, and musically the versions might be cool in some or other way, but the vocalists just plain fail to rule. Heck, they'd fail to rule the local garbage dump. There are a few positive highlights on the album, though. SNP's "The Thing that Should not Be" sounds every bit as heavy as the original, Tearstained's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is interesting insofar that it's a black metal version of the song with screamy black vocals, Nukes' "Seek and Destroy" is pretty cool and, if any of the bands are fit to rule anything beyond the aforementioned patch of soil, it's Profane with their ripping version of "Ride the Lightning".

The second CD, as mentioned before, contains original tracks by the artists who delivered covers for the first disc. SKW is Pantera meets Overdose, PWR are a technically capable band with an Offspring injection, Blackend have a singer with a horrible accent (German?), SNP is interesting (I'd describe it as "Fates Warning meets Watchtower"), Nadia is hardcore with a bad vocalist, Nukes is a bit too grungy. Moksha is musically OK, pretty capable and progressive, but with a bad vocalist. Lunatic Gods is a pretty good band in a traditional thrash vein, with a remarkably good drummer. Tearstained has a production as bad as the worst Darkthrone (which might be a compliment to them) with a horrible guitar solo and laughable female-like vocal passages.

On the whole, there is enough good on this album to put on a short-running CD single. Not a good investment.



Written December 1999


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