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“Scalped” Review in Uber Rock (UK)

Phantom Of The Black Hills – ‘Scalped’ (Ratchet Blade Records/Cockroach Media) 
By Mark Ashby
Phantom Of The Black Hills Scalped

As a sub-genre, “hellbilly” seems to lie somewhere between bluegrass, country, NOLA-style doom and traditional rock ‘n’ roll. Most popularly brought to global attention by artists such as Hank Williams III, it is a musical style which can, at first, be difficult to understand and then digest. Take, for example, the reaction of her good self when she walked into the UR studio and first heard this particular opus blasting from our tower block sized speaker system: “what the fuck is that shit?” she demanded to know as I turned the mixer up another notch…

“That shit”, as herself so eloquently put it, is the fifth album from POTBH, a band who don’t believe in giving much away, from the bandanas across their faces in all their publicity photos to the paucity of information on both the press release which accompanied the CD and on their Facebook page: it doesn’t even say where they’re from – although the reference to “Black Hills” in their name should be a huge pointer… but, you never know and should never take anything for granted. For all we know, they are either a bunch of hicks from Nowhereville in North Dakota, or a bunch of rich college grads from Hollywood playing at being the former – although, I must admit, I sincerely doubt it!

Whatever the case, POTBH have produced an album that veers from out and country to the lunatic fringe industrialism of Ministry: this is probably understandable, as the only piece of information the band proffer about themselves is that their music would be the result of “Glenn Danzig and Al Jourgensen stayed up all night listening to old Porter Wagoner and Hank Sr. records and drinking homemade corn liquor”. Maybe a bit OTT – but, hey, what band doesn’t overhype themselves – but you get the picture…

My problem with ‘Scalped’ is that there are two songs which absolutely kick ass heavier than a size 11 New Rock to your tailbone. The first is opener ‘Wild Witch Of The West’, which pumps and thumps like a moonshine-fuelled culchie; driven by a snarly snare and characterized by a punked-up banjo, and featuring a lascivious guest vocal from Mather Louth, it sets a mood that almost immediately dissipates. Yes, ‘Raised On Fire’ is a suitable slice of fiddle-fuelled arson, ‘Dr Dealer’ is a leather-clad metallic monster, and ‘Torchy’ is cute in its amalgamation of metal and country grooves – but the album then, from the loud but unfulfilling abrasiveness of ‘Blow It Up’ onwards, slowly peters out until the bonus track of ‘The Reckoning’ drags it kicking and screaming back to life, with its Nick Cave-like Gothicism, hard-ass thrashy guitar riff, snarly snare-led percussive drive and spoken vocal.

Read the full review HERE.

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