Released: 2012, Escape
More and more details are coming to light surrounding the band Phenomena. Founder Tom Galley has stated that this recent phase of the bands career arc will be concluding with the 2012 album, AWAKENING. That is not to say the band is breaking up but rather Tom has fulfilled his three-album deal with Escape and his next project is going to return to the concept of the first three albums. In retrospect that makes sense because PSYCHOFANTASY (2006) and BLIND FAITH (2010) don’t match the mold of the first trilogy. Not that they are bad albums but it’s just different. So slot the albums into trilogies if we must and AWAKENING is the last one in this set.
AWAKENING follows the same style of album construction namely a mountain of guest stars on the album. It’s been just under a year and half since BLIND FAITH and the band keep the momentum going with many of the same musicians and a few new friends. Returning for a visit are Mike DiMeo (Riot), Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Mat Sinner, and the usual AOR suspects, Rob Moratti, Terry Brock, Tommy Denander and more. Some new friends on the album are Mike Slamer (Steelhouse Lane), Toby Hitchcock (Pride Of Lions) and James Christian (House Of Lords) and several more. You can’t beat a lineup like that.
The album seems a bit perfunctory, ten quick songs under 40 minutes and it’s pretty straight ahead, the band have all but shed any progressive tendencies, a few of which lingered on the last album I felt. The tone and tempo is pretty uniformed throughout the songs, never get too slow or too fast, the arrangements allowing each guest to showcase his unique talent. Every song is well crafted to bring maximum impact come chorus time and the songs never get too adventurous. Everyone plays well without showing off playing to the song, with getting too self-indulgent, perhaps making the songs a bit safe. The highlight cuts for me are ‘Fighter’ with it’s catchy chorus and an engaging storyline about boxing; well-delivered by Terry Brock. Earlier in the album, James Christian turns in another superb vocal display on ‘Going Away’. The heavier cuts ‘Shake’ and album opener ‘Smash It Up’ have some additional guitar crunch but nothing extreme.
I really enjoyed this album but I can’t help shake the nagging feeling that maybe Tom saved his ‘A’ material for his upcoming collaboration with original founding member of Phenomena, namely Wilfred Rimensberger. AWAKENING is flawless in terms of performance and execution but the songs didn’t grab me quite as much as on BLIND FAITH. Still worth checking out and essential if you have been following the second in it’s ‘second phase’ of Melodic Metal.