Bronze 1985 / Cherry Red 2018
Lifetime in a dream: inaugural installment of tremendous endeavor in the field of sci-fi heaviness and melodic release.
Here’s a record that may blow to bits any amount of skepticism aimed at concept works and their compatibility with the ’80s production values – thanks both to the strengths of “Phenomena” songs and of musicians delivering them. It may still be hard to link the story behind it to particular tracks and illustrations accompanying each piece, as well as Tom Galley’s comments – all restored for this glorious reissue – but the project he created and fleshed out with the help of British hard rock elite defies belief. By combining Glenn Hughes‘ heavenly harmonies on “Phoenix Rising” – the epitome of the album’s sublime balladry, which Richard Bailey’s ivories outline so beautifully – and heavy riffs that propel the likes of “Hell On Wings” to Valhalla, rather than the period’s plastic underworld, the ensemble stage a fantastic experience, where even pieces originally devised for WHITESNAKE – such as “Believe” – or TRAPEZE form a part of riveting narrative.
As Neil Murray and Cozy Powell’s powerful groove infuses “Kiss Of Fire” with drama to contrast soulful vocals, while Ted McKenna’s drums rage through “Who’s Watching You” to lock in with Hughes’ bass and spur Mel Galley’s guitar which will trade licks with John Thomas’ six strings on “Still The Night” – one of the few cuts on display reflecting its era – cinematic magic is emerging that metal and pop aficionados alike must eagerly embrace. There’s also space for folk in “Dance With The Devil” whose swirl, a precursor to an irresistible chorus, is ushered in by Ric Sanders’ fiddle, so if “Twilight Zone” feels slightly superficial, albeit sweet, the record’s choir-augmented titular instrumental is supremely spiritual. This tuneful spirit has successfully carried the allure of “Phenomena” through decades, and although it would be followed by new developments, sequel weren’t able to capture the original wonder.