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Gold Key - Hello Phantom album review

Hertfordshire quartet prove more than just a side project

Gold Key - Hello Phantom album artwork

Although this Watford quartet have earned some initial interest due to guitarist Laurent Barnard’s day job as riff-mangler-in-chief for punk urchins Gallows, fans of shouty hardcore might be a little dismayed to hear that Gold Key, the band Barnard has formed with Gallows producer Steve Sears, sound barely related. One thing the bands have in common is visceral impact. This debut album’s huge, cavernously-produced opener Creep In Slowly engulfs us in a melodramatic sweep of pomp rock majesty, with a ghostly swathe of backing vocals adding to the feeling of being swept up in someone else’s anxiety dream. The whiffs of Mansun’s more sumptuous and emotive material are instantly noticeable on Circle The Moon, Crab Traps and the title track, decorated with ear-tickling guitar motifs and uneasy whispers of percussion. But Sears’ yearning vocals also offer strong echoes of Matt Bellamy’s angst-wracked histrionics and heavyweight emotional catharsis. When Sears rages in Mess, about an errant lover delivering a ‘punch into the kidneys’, you’re left feeling that you’ve been delivered a similarly potent blow to your ears. But we doubt you’ll be complaining.

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock