PHANTASM, Keeper of Death (1993, Russian Disc)
As promised with SKULL419, here is the successor to Russia’s Propeller. These guys really upgraded their aesthetics here. Of course, Phantasm is a much more awesome (if unoriginal) name than Propeller, and this skull is also mas macho. Whereas the Propeller pentagram was a kind of bladey thing, here we have barbed wire which is actually threaded through fissures in the skull (a nice touch!) Propeller featured what looked like a marionette skull, but Phantasm’s skull is clearly a badass dude. And while there’s still the issue of the too-big eyes, this guy makes up for it by dripping blood from his nose and mouth. Everything about this guy screams, “You motherfuckers thought you knew about death and pain? Well, you don’t know SHIT.”
Unfortunately, while Propeller got their look together when they changed to Phantasm, they sure as hell didn’t get their act in the studio together. This is the same kind of deathy thrash, but the sound is atrocious and the playing mysteriously sloppier. This was only recorded a year or so after that Propeller demo, but it sounds like it might have been made 5 years before. It’s a very strange regression for a band who, as of their demo, sounded like they knew what they were doing. That said, this being a proper LP and not a demo, it’s acquired a reputation as an underground classic in some circles, and if you like caveman death metal a la Master, then you might really go in for this, shitty production and all. Granted, you won’t find it for less than a small fortune, but spending hundred of bucks on a totally inessntial LP from Russia will make it sounds way more awesome, at least in your mind.
— Friar Johnsen