Phantom Blue were much more than the five pretty faces appearing on the cover of their 1989 debut. These ladies had some nasty chops! Phantom Blue was released by Shrapnel Records — a label that specialized in shred. While this album isn’t a total shred-fest, the guitar duo Michelle Meldrum and Nicole Couch were a legit force to be reckoned with. Both were students of Paul Gilbert and Bruce Bouillet of Racer X (one of the better-known Shrapnel bands). You can hear some of that neo-classical style in some of the solos. Phantom Blue also boasted a fine singer in Gigi Hangach. What I like about Hangach’s vocal performance is that she didn’t try to overcompensate like many female metal singers in the eighties. I think certain vocalists like Doro Pesch (Warlock) and Leather Leone (Chastain) tried too hard to be “as metal as the boys” and often sounded strained as a result . Meanwhile other female singers were completely outmatched by their backing bands (Nicole Lee of ZnoWhite comes to mind). Gigi found that sweet spot whereby she sounded tough but not too forced.
Nicole Couch does most of the song writing on Phantom Blue, but the song Why Call It Love? was written outside of the band. This was a single in Europe and is probably one of the few songs that attempts to crossover from metal to “hair” territory. My favorite song on the album is Never Too Late which was co-written by Couch, Meldrum, Marty Friedman (another Shrapnel guitar hero), and producer Steve Fontano.
Phantom Blue was released by Roadrunner Records in Europe with a different cover. With both covers depicting the ladies as nothing more than a gaggle of pin-up girls, I’m not sure either did the band any justice. There’s little indication of the kick-ass metal waiting beneath! My score: B+