Album Review: Black Phantom “The Zero Hour Is Now”

Life for a music nerd is nice in the age of Spotify, YouTube, and Band Camp. It used to be, back in the day, that to find new music you had to have heard about a band from a friend, who heard it from a friend, who heard it from another, that they have some kick ass tunes. Now, in the year 2020, all I have to do is hop on the net or type a few words into an app, and BOOM, tons of new music right there for me to sample.

My most recent find came from a YouTube channel subscription I have been enjoying since I discovered it a few months ago. NWOTHM Full Albums is exactly that. Full albums from under the radar, underground, traditional heavy metal bands. If you are like me and enjoy that old school metal sound of yesteryear, I would seriously consider you subscribe to this channel yourself as it offers everything a denim and leather sporting metal head could want out of a YouTube channel.

“Zero Hour is Now” is a prophetic title for a familiar sound that sees Milan, Italy natives Black Phantom crafting the newest Iron Maiden hit record. Embracing the comparison to one of metal’s top acts, Black Phantom have never shied away for embracing the association between their sound and the sound of the mighty Maiden. Their debut album, 2017’s “Better Beware!”, featured a cover of “Total Eclipse” from the classic “The Number of the Beast”, and their sound is an obvious homage to the New Wave of British Heavy Metallers from London. Black Phantom is to Iron Maiden what Greta Van Fleet is to Led Zeppelin.

The album begins in splendid fashion with “Redemption,” and if there was any doubt as to where the band’s influence lies, that doubt is demolished the second Andrea Tito’s bass begins that all too familiar gallop less than half a minute into the opening barn burner. Tito formed Black Phantom while on hiatus from his band Mesmerize in 2014 as he was looking for an outlet for songs he had written nearly a decade before. Much like Steve Harris, Andrea Tito’s stamp is all over “Zero Hour is Now.”

As “Redemption” ends and “Hordes of Destruction” begins, the onslaught does not relent, and the guitars of Luca Belbruno and Roberto Manfrinato sound more like post reunion Maiden than the “Powerslave” era on this one. “Hordes of Destruction” will have you singing along to a memorable chorus that you would be hard pressed not to fist pump as you scream along, “Zero hour is now; Here they come, the hordes of destruction!”

Andrea Tito rips it some more on the album’s third track, “Schattenjager”, which for my non German speaking friends, translates to shadow hunter, and it boasts another attention grabbing chorus. For those of you wishing to hear a German version of a German titled song, the ending of the album features “Schattenjager” again, but sung in German.

“The Road” is the album’s sole epic track, clocking in at nearly 8 minutes. Every member of the bands shines on this one, but it is the vocals of Manuel Malini who really shimmers here. Possessing a voice box that sounds like the weird love child of early Bruce Bruce, old Dickinson, and Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy, Malini’s vocals may not satisfy all listeners, but I thoroughly enjoy the pedigree.

While, in all the honesty, the first half of “Zero Hour is Now” wowed me, the second half settled into a good, but not great milieu. “Aboard the Rattling Ark” sees more Tito and Malini solid performances and “Either You or Me” sits right above the line of power ballad, firmly planting itself as a slow rocker in the vein of Iron Maiden’s “Wasting Love”. “Begone!” calls back to the type of memorable chorus heard earlier on “Schattenjager”, and “Hands of Time” rounds out the album in style.

My biggest disappointment in the release has little to do with the actual sound of the album, but rather the fact that it is only available on compact disc. A vinyl release would have made an excellent addition to my collection, but otherwise I cannot complain. While I tried to avoid an overabundance of Maiden comparisons in this review, it is nearly impossible given the sound, but while Eddie and the boys clearly had a definitive influence on “Black Phantom”, the band are still able to craft their own unique sound out of this ball crushing set of tracks.

Will “Zero Hour is Now” sell a million records? There is little to no chance of that happening. However, if you enjoy bass heavy traditional metal in the familiar wheelhouse of Iron Maiden’s early and, to a lesser extent, their more recent work, then “Black Phantom’s” sophomore release is a pretty good damn way to spend three quarters of an hour.

Schreck is the host of Panzerschreck Armory on Alloy Radio airing every Saturday at 9pm EST on the Alloy Armory channel.

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