The Bust of Beelzebub

Phatom Fire

At twenty-nine minutes and seven tracks, it might be a stretch to call the creatively […]
By Chris Hicklin
November 22, 2021
Phantom Fire - The Bust of Beelzebub album cover

At twenty-nine minutes and seven tracks, it might be a stretch to call the creatively christened "The Bust of Beelzebub" a debut album, but that's what Norwegian Black Metallers PHANTOM FIRE are going with, so I'll run with it too.  Folding in one of the two tracks from their debut EP, the equally brilliantly baptized "Return of the Goat," we have a mere six further tracks to make up this release. It's fortunate for the band that a great album is about quality not quantity, for as fleeting as our dance with the occult is, it's a bit of a belter.

We blast off with the blink-and-you'll-miss-it "Return of the Goat" from the debut EP. It's a hard-hitting affair, a heavy but crisp riff with a hint of groove is peppered with blast beats, Eld's vocals are guttural and wild, but have a punchy delivery. The heavy riffing continues into the LP's title track "The Bust of Beelzebub" which has a slightly more theatrical feel to it with Eld's roaring vocals and dark laugh punctuating the song.

If this hasn't brought the pain yet, then "Sweet Jezebel" rips the band-aid off. A driving Speed Metal riff hurtles forward at breakneck pace, perfectly timed ride cymbals pick you up and carry you from passage to passage. The song features a bit of a breakdown towards the end, briefly giving some respite from the frenzy, but even this remains uncompromising as a brutal heavy groove takes its place.

You could be excused at this point for thinking that the album might just relentlessly dash to the finish line, after all it has only been 8 minutes and we are almost half the way through the track list. Not so however, as "Pihsrow" takes a radical left turn into an eery soundscape, disconnected voices mumble over disparate synth sounds and beats. It's not until midway mark that the beast begins to slowly awake from its slumber, but only to cast a watchful eye around his lair as Kjartan's sludgy, detuned guitars wail and moan to sooth it back to sleep.

"Shut Eye" features a quite beautiful bass intro from Eld, melodic and with some well-chosen chords, the stripped back approach gives it a garage-like feel. The song itself is a slow brooding piece that is packed with dynamic instrumental ideas. Penultimate offering "Feed on Fire" has a more modern air about it, the guitars have a little more groove, the drums have a Punk beat, and then the bloodthirsty riffing begins, and we descend into madness. The track also has something almost entirely absent from the rest of the LP, a guitar solo, of sorts. But this is no shred-fest, it's a dissonant howl, a visitor from the other side sitting uncomfortably in an unfamiliar land.

Finally, taking its name from Polanksi's satanic thriller, "The Ninth Gate" is here to weird us out one last time. It takes quite a while to get going, the first half being dominated by an acoustic guitar piece over a swirling, atmospheric backing track with murmuring voices that are begging to be played backwards so you can hear what they are saying. Not until ninety seconds from the end do we reach anything that might resemble a song, and when it comes it is as fittingly visceral as one has come to expect from this album.

Iver Sandøy's production on "The Bust of Beelzebub" is no frills, it sounds authentically like the bands and era it draws influence from, but it could have done with a little more attention as the bass and drums are a bit sludgy and the cymbals lack definition. The playing throughout is top notch, Eld and Kjartan handle all vocal and musical duties except for the drums which were performed by Sandøy pulling double duties. If you enjoyed the groundbreaking Black Metal of VENOM or BATHORY, or even the more straightforward Rock of MOTORHEAD, you will find plenty for you here.

8 / 10









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"The Bust of Beelzebub" Track-listing:

1. Return of the Goat
2. The Bust of Beelzebub
3. Sweet Jezebel
4. Pihsrow
5. Shut Eye
6. Feed on Fire
7. The Ninth Gate

Phatom Fire Lineup:

Kjartan - Guitars
Eld - Vocals, Bass

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