Out Tomorrow: Phase Reverse – Phase Reverse

Phase ReversePhase Reverse (Aural Music, 16 December 2011)

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If you enjoyed yesterday’s dose of heavy rock with a metallic edge, now I’d like to introduce you to Phase Reverse, the debut full-length from Athenian trio Phase Reverse. Originally available in a limited Greece-only release in December 2009, the album is now being made available to audiences worldwide on CD and digital download via Italian label Aural Music.

The descriptions of this band all seem to be on the fence as to how they should be classified; in fact, the bio on their label’s website mentions “a perfect mix of Heaviness, Groove and Melody: not quite Metal, not quite Rock, but the best of both!” This is pretty accurate, much in the way a band like Temple of the Dog, Tantric, or Candlebox had a very groove-laden rock sound, with memorable melodic vocals but plenty of metal-tinged heaviness.

For example, the thunderous pounding drums, heavy riffing, and flying wah-soaked leads of the song “Death Ride” are all definitely firmly planted in the metal camp, but a lighter, more melodic side of the band emerges in tracks like the acoustic-driven “Crash ‘n Burn” or the ballad-y “High Hopes.”

Either way you prefer to classify them, though, Phase Reverse are very good at what they do. Prior to recording this album, while they were still in “demo mode,” the band had spent a tremendous amount of time performing live shows; this investment in gaining experience playing together, as well as working to perfect their music, has really paid off. What we find on this record is a collection of quality songs, captured by a group of highly talented musicians.

Of course, with only three people in the band, there is no real way to hide a weak link; thankfully that is not a problem here.  Bassist Anastasios (Tas) Ioannidis, guitarist John (Chief) Stergiou, and drummer Alexandros (Alex) Alexiou all play their instruments more than adequately; and vocally, Tas tends to reinforce the comparisons to those bands already named, both with the range and also the power and conviction of his voice.

In another way, the power-trio instrumentation can be a benefit, as the somewhat sparser arrangement leaves more room for the drums and especially the bass to breathe, which they definitely do.  In far too many modern metal recordings, the bass gets pushed back until its presence is just barely discernible under layers of guitars. This is not the case here, as Tas has numerous shining moments throughout; including the dancing fill during the intro to “High Hopes,” the shuffling two-fingered groove in “Long Gone,” and especially when he drops to an ultra-low-register underneath the guitar solo in “Road Fever,” feeling like a punch in the listener’s gut.

“Chief” demonstrates that he is also a very capable guitarist, often resembling the work Zakk Wylde has done with Black Label Society — or perhaps more accurately, with Ozzy Osbourne, because his playing shines across all the varying dynamics of this album; from crushing, doomy riffs to warm, bluesy leads.  Not to mention the solos, which are pretty great themselves; standouts include the one in “I Got Your Back” which, although fairly brief, still managed to impress; and the solo from “High Hopes” very well could have been played by Slash on one of the Use Your Illusion albums.

Furthermore, the songwriting here is equally impressive. After just once through this album all the songs feel instantly familiar, and repeated spins just serve to enhance the enjoyment. Mixing their southern heavy-blues with equal parts crunchy metal riffs and mellow introspection, the band also serve up slices of minor-key melodies and harmonies with an ethnic or exotic feeling, similar to the sort of thing System of a Down were sometimes known to do. The sludgey epic “Who Gives a Damn,” the haunting “Changes,” and closing track “Long Gone” are excellent examples of this.

For more information on this album and the band, and to… hold on………. wait a second.

There’s more?… all this plus a hidden song?!? I didn’t even know people still did those in this age of having everything in digital streaming format, but it’s nice to see someone still paying respect to the old tradition of placing an extra secret present after the last song on the record or CD.  There’s about a minute or so of silence after “Long Gone,” and then the real last song fades in.  This quiet, dreamy number (that I guess might be titled “Sing for Me”) serves as a nice soothing coda after you’ve had your socks rocked off for nearly an hour.  Okay, as I was saying…

…and to hear sample songs or catch some videos, head on over to the official Phase Reverse website.

You can also keep up with their latest news by liking them on Facebook.  (I’d highly recommend it – as it turns out, the band is signed to a multi-album deal with Aural, and I understand they are currently working on writing the second one!)

Finally, to pick up your very own copy, the CD is currently on-sale at the Aural Music webstore, or (if you live in America and you don’t want to pay for shipping from Italy) it looks like you can pre-order the CD from Amazon (although this version has a release date of 7 February 2012).

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