December 22, 2008

The Phantom Band: 'Checkmate Savage' January 20th 2009

Something dark hums and percolates through the fabric of The Phantom Band's music. Although the band's name, song titles ("The Howling, "Burial Sounds", "Folk Song Oblivion", "Throwing Bones") and lyrical couplets, may give the listener a nod towards that fact, it's what they've crafted on record which gives credence to this notion of darkness. What little I've read of this Scottish sextet seems to focus on their being bizarre and strange, but I don't hear it, don't hear anything strange or bizarre, but I like to think I'm a little strange and bizarre (as many of us do, just to stand out from the masses, I suppose), so all I hear is good music, music which conjures images of cold Scottish rocks and blood, blood turned an oily black beneath the hard northern starlight. That's not weird, is it? But then I'm descended from the Norwegian Vikings who ransacked Scotland's Orkney Isles over a thousand years ago.

This is from their upcoming record, Checkmate Savage, due January 20th on Chemikal Underground. Visit the band's homepage here and then make an all out effort to find and listen to "Folk Song Oblivion" and "Throwing Bones", both on the new album, as well. Very good stuff.

the howling [mp3]


  1. According to the Mp3 that you posted they are really my cup of tea... their MySpace Page doesn't have any tracks on it at all, which is doing them a great disservice. A great pity.

  2. Kimberly - thanks for your comment. I checked their myspace and their are some songs to listen to, just give their page time to load... Or refresh if the player doesn't appear.

  3. I was passed a promo of the Checkmate Savage album by someone at work and have two-ish points to make...

    1. It is the best album I've heard in absolutely ages, as I toe-tapped my way through its synthy-krautrock-with-a-twist-of-something-sweet anthems (with a hint of classic rock), stopping only to be moved to tears by the stunningly beautiful folk hymn 'Island'. This is a band who seem to have so much to offer and who fill you with the feeling that there is much more where that came from. if any criticism is due at all, then it can only be that perhaps they are holding back a little on this record (?) for the sake of making a concise and accessible album... and don't take this too negatively as I love the album how it is, and the fact that I get the sense of it being only the tip of the iceberg just fills me with confidence that Checkmate Savage will serve as a neat stepping stone to greater magic with the next one as this band find their feet and settle into the public domain. In other words, I have a feeling that this is a band we'll be hearing alot more of.
    (ok that was more than one point)

    2. Your review is spot-on. Particularly "rocks and blood, blood turned an oily black beneath the hard northern starlight" - haha, brilliant. Although all the songs are fun and up-beat, varying a great deal in style (eclectically genre-hopping) there is a subtle darkness that pervades. Being from Scotland originally I too get a strong sense of an ancient and mysterious beat thudding it's way through the earth and onto the lp, or the faint shreek of a banshee echoing from the misty gloaming and through the epic tracks. The distant murmur of a free-church gathering, the faint reverberation of countless reasonless deaths, a creek and a scratch from within the cold foundations of Roslyn chapel and a stain on Aleister Crowley's pyjama bottoms... spooky phantoms, who the heck are you?!


  4. I just tried there my space page again - this time with IE and not with fire fox - and lo and behold - they do have tracks there to sample
    Woohoo! I am off to listen