CD Review: "Phantom Moon"

CD: Phantom Moon
ARTIST: John Lancaster

It would surprise nobody that the guy who used to front Chum would release a rockin’ solo debut of richly arranged, groove-based melodic hard rock songs. What may surprise you is how Huntington’s John Lancaster pulled it off, and who came along with him for the ride.

On the whole, the songs on his 14-song effort Phantom Moon sound like Scott Weiland singing for old Sevendust, with more layers in the sound. At least enough atmospheric (sometimes haunting) synth and neat little stereo tricks to make things interesting with the headphones on.

Phantom Moon features a star-studded lineup of Huntington-area (and beyond) guest musicians. With all due respect, to list them all here would take too much space; see Lancaster’s site for the details, but the list just clues you into who Lancaster is.

If you’re into checking out cool Tri-State area rock outfits (and have internet access) you may have already heard three of the standout tracks on the CD, “Liars,” “When Shadows Grow Teeth,” (w/King’s X’s dUg Pinnick singing; nice changeup) or the opening track, “This Fire Has Just Begun.”

But there’s more than just those you’ll want to check out.

“A Burning Farewell To Us All” is maybe our favorite track; haunting, ethereal synth, the Weiland-esque vocals over space rock, with super-neato synth blurbs panned left to right, passing through your head like a wormhole, with “smoke signals outside the void, a burning farewell to us all.” Really cool synth on this track. Lotta smoke and fire imagery on the lyrics.

Lyrically, like a lot of songwriters, Lancaster makes Phantom Moon almost nebulous, conceptually. You could take them, on the whole, a number of ways. Singing of lies speaking volumes, burnt offerings, smoke signals, the panic setting in, and 24-hour alarmism in general, it could be he’s being apocalyptic. Maybe not. Maybe he’s just looking to make up for what he feels is lost time in the rock game “the terrors of the empty page,” on “Liars,” “Time exploding in the sky/our names in faded lights,” on “Millions.”

Maybe this phantom moon is getting ready to float into the sun.

“Mercurial” has great, angelic harmonic parts and pummeling breaks, a cool song.

“The Impersonator” is probably the most hard rockin’, uptempo type track on the CD, with Lancaster, seeming to sound more like Weiland in parts, singing “The mirror lied to you…the truth has cursed you.”

“Strange Ghosts” has a kind of creepy, but catchy guitar progression (that sounds like that song “hey hey we are the monsters”) with funky bass; cool song with nice hooks and droning in parts, emotive in other vocals from Lancaster:
“One day I won’t come back at all, to all these strange ghosts of the world. The angels of desire, I’m not seeing visions anymore.”
“Millions” has cool (but largely undecipherable) vocals by Dave Angstrom, something about “Empire,” and it maybe ain’t so good for the empire. But the vocals are rockin’.

“Forever the Alarmist” reminds us of a Queensryche song from back in the day; maybe the bass line for some reason. Listen to it, maybe you’ll think the same way, maybe not. “Stare in the face of the sun…primed for a revelation,” Lancaster sings.

There’s 90-second instrumental tracks like “No Waking World” and “Your Cautionary Tale,” the latter sounding something like you’d hear off NIN’s The Fragile, thrown in just to keep us off our toes.

The title track closes the CD nicely, and quite rockingly.

Aside from the guest musicians and the coherent tone over the duration of the record, probably one of the more instantly noticed aspects of Lancaster’s sound is the low end. Bassist and longtime Lancaster friend and band mate Barry Smith (who recorded the main tracks) lays down fat, deep punchy bass lines throughout, driving the sound. At first, we played the CD in a kind of generic CD player/boom box, and thought the speakers were gonna blow; that someone had hit “xtra bass” or something on it. There was no such button. Then, we put it in a kind of high end flat screen TV, and the same quality; killer bass guitar on this CD.

Look, WVRockscene is not a radio station. Nobody is going to run out and buy Phantom Moon if we’re all like: “Go out and buy this CD!” But, these songs remind you of something you’d hear on any rock and roll station interested in rocking. We wouldn’t be surprised if you heard one of these tunes on X106.3 if you haven’t yet. And not just Loud & Local (which has recently played some Bud Carroll and Byzantine, each act represented on this CD) -- the regular play list. During the week.

And hey, in this digital day and age, you can just swing by one of Lancaster’s many sites and hear a few of the tunes; not bad.

But come what may, with this debut effort, Lancaster proves the fire is still burning, he‘s seen it through; it’s an effort all involved should be proud of. Phantom Moon puts Lancaster back on the map for sure, whatever he does next.

mp3: “A Burning Farewell to us All” by John Lancaster

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P In The Hole said...

Cool. Any chance of posting When Shadows Grow Teeth? Please!

Bradford, UK

WVRockscene! said...

Hey wow a comment from across the pond!

First, thanks for commenting, and you can hear When Shadows Grow Teeth on Lancaster's sites.

We usually like to upload our favorite mp3s off CDs that aren't up online, really. If Lancaster sees this and givess us the okay to upload "Teeth" we'll be glad to.

There's so many good songs on the CD, but maybe our favorite was the one we uploaded.

Thanks for commenting though!


P In The Hole said...

Just playing on the 'special relationship' my transatlantic friends. Thanks for the heads up (hate that phrase) about WSGT being up on Lancaster's site! Am a big dUg/KX fan so that was always going to be the track i was most interested in hearing.