Album Review: Gold Key – Hello, Phantom

Strap yourself in and prepare yourself, and your ears, to encounter one of the finest albums of 2017. Because our former New Band of the Week Gold Key have released a masterpiece on their debut album Hello, Phantom.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise, given the DIY Watford band features former members of Sikth and Gallows and the qualities of frontman Steve Sears, who previously produced two Gallows albums. But this album really impresses with its jumps between big rocky heaviness and delicious delicate melodies in 11 tracks that’ll have you absolutely hooked.

Hello, Phantom opens up in impressive fashion with the excellent Creep In Slowly, which we featured upon its single launch nearly a year ago. It begins with stodgy bursts of bass that roll into light guitar frills then falsetto vocals come in through an opening verse with the occasional blast of guitar. It builds into a powerful chorus of almost shouted vocals, then drops down into a return of big bursts of guitar and impressive falsetto vocals. These continue through to a big, loud conclusion of  high pitched guitar squeals followed by light guitar flicks that bring it to an end. Watch the cool lyric video below:

That’s followed by a big bassy, atmospheric intro to Circle The Moon, which continues through the opening verse before a laid-back chorus. The pace picks up with a laboured guitar solo then building drums then another verse with Sears’ impressive vocals supported by plenty of bass and synth.

The album title track Hello, Phantom opens up with cool synthy noise then a haunting twisty guitar lick supporting Sears’ delicious meandering vocals. The lyrics “Take the very life and soul away from me” are the cue for a bigger burst of noise then big high-pitched vocals of “Hello phantom again” are supported by high-pitched guitars before dropping down into the intro guitars and more haunting vocals. A cool faster guitar solo follows a second verse with wandering bassline, before a final rendition of the intoxicating chorus.

That’s followed by the wonderful The Shape, which opens with synthy sounds then laid-back drums that continue into a brooding verse of drawn-out guitars under Sears’ delightful vocals that build up to a big cry of “It’s the shape” through a powerful vocal-led verse. It’s laid back yet powerful but not in a heavy, rocky fashion – it’s difficult to surmise, but it’s absolutely brilliant.

The album is laden with laid-back, almost pop-like tracks that rely on Sears’ delicious vocals, like Crab Traps and Juvenoia. But these are countered by raw, rocky tracks that take you by surprise somewhat.

One of those is the superb Sneaker which, as the title suggests, sneaks up on you slowly with a lingering, repeated guitar riff alongside Sears’ building, engaging vocals including the line “Speeding like a bullet through your head,” which coincides with the introduction of a synthy drum sound that begins to pick the pace up. The instruments drop out completely in place of a high-pitched synth noise, then a big, chunky guitar riff drops in to add depth to a second verse. The track gradually builds in intensity and heaviness, with the big riff continuing alongside a high-pitched guitar riff underneath the ever-impressive vocals. Check it out in the video below:

Next track Hatches Down is possibly my personal favourite on the album. It begins slowly with over one minute of lingering guitar noises and atmospheric ambience, then kicks into a delicious flickering guitar lick that continues alongside delicate high-pitched vocals. Those give way to a heavier guitar riff that develops into a big smash of rocky brilliance with guitars playing question and answer with some great vocal delivery. A mini bridge of repeated feint vocals supported by flickering guitars is blown away by a guitar solo that feeds into more powerful vocals as the track closes in a heavy outro.

Continuing the heavier theme is the excellent Kerosene, their most recent single release. It starts off with a cool percussion intro then Sears’ effects-ridden vocals over a repeating guitar lick and big bassline, before exploding into life with a huge chorus. Sears’ distorted vocals linger over a darting guitar riff and pounding drums in a chorus that’ll shake a bit of life into you, and the second chorus is followed by a really cool distorted solo that flows straight into a final smash of the chorus.

Penultimate track Mess summarises the brilliance of Gold Key. It begins with floaty synth sounds that give way to a delicious, laid-back opening verse led by Sears’ wonderfully vocals that cut through the atmospheric instrumental backdrop: “Bleed my soul, Be my all, Oh no, I need the lies that you say to me.” These are followed by a lovely floating guitar lick that feeds into a second verse before the song bursts into life with a sudden smash of drums that are the cue for a brilliant delivery of shouty vocals: “This is just another chapter that I’m willing to shelf, You are the reason I’m a mess or at least I’m telling myself, Every waking moment in a fever that I’m willing to shake , Another punch into the kidneys that I’m happy to take.” This is, quite simply, a brilliant song, and you can check it out in the below video:

The album closes out with Fall Through The Middle, which opens up with an Eastern sounding intro that drops into a laid-back verse of drawn-out vocals, then picks up pace with more powerful vocals. A blitz of fast-paced guitars flows into a second verse, then lingering guitars and bass underpin a cool section of “ah-ah” vocals before the pace drops down again. It closes out with a hit of heavier rock to bring the album to a feel-good ending.

This is a brilliant album that dives between melodic, relaxed and heavier styles and sounds to keep you glued throughout, and really portrays the brilliance of Gold Key. You can see them for yourself as they play Scala in London alongside Arcane Roots tonight. They then play the Hope & Ruin in Brighton on Sunday (5 November), Electrowerkz in London on Tuesday (7 November), then The Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton on Wednesday (8 November), and a free show at House of Vans London on 15 November. They will be worth seeing live, and more info on their upcoming gigs is here.

Hello, Phantom is out now and available on vinyl here, on all the usual platforms here, and you can stream it on Spotify. You can follow Gold Key on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

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