Review: The Sonic Dawn ‘Phantom’

Danish trio, The Sonic Dawn, return with Phantom, their first release since 2020’s Mirage, and while they’ve been on my radar for a while and I’ve listened to a bit of their catalog on Bandcamp, Phantom is actually my first proper experience with the band, and while I had an idea of what to expect, one never really knows until the proverbial needle hits wax.

The Sonic Dawn 'Phantom' Artwork
The Sonic Dawn ‘Phantom’ Artwork

I’ve seen The Sonic Dawn’s sound described alternately as late ‘60s/early 70’s psych, acid rock, and heavy blues, and all of those descriptions are apt, but there’s also a super, laid-back, almost folky vibe flowing throughout the bands approach as well.

Phantom opens with 21st Century Blues, instantly living up to the 70’s easy listening rock description. Vocalist and guitarist Emil Bureau’s mellow crooning and trippy ‘70s shred certainly fits with the aesthetic, as do the subtle organ flourishes courtesy of new member Erik ‘Errka’ Peterson.

First single Iron Bird follows and is a bit of a livelier affair, featuring plenty of cool, clean, downstroke guitar riffage, which runs parallel with the easy going, yet rock-steady rhythm section. Think It Over is a cool, bouncing, blues number that wouldn’t sound out of place in some California blues bar circa 1971, especially when the catchy, soaring, chorus kicks in when the band brings proceedings up a notch. The piano from Peterson serves the song well and adds to the overall vibe, making the track an early album favorite.

Nothing Can Live Here begins as an airy, spacey, affair before the band take off into the next dimension, rolling along with a purposely constrained build, Bureau repeating ‘Wither and die’ whilst simultaneously unleashing more awesome shred as the band erupts into a controlled, cacophony, carrying the track to its conclusion. Dreams Of Change, to my ears, serves as the center piece of the album, unfurling into a tripped-out, psychedelic, call back to the late ‘60s, both in the instrumentation, in Bureau’s lyrics and passionate delivery. The swirling effects add to both the spaced-out vibe and urgent, of-the-moment, lyrics.

the early ‘70s sonic equivalent of watching the sun rise…

Second single, Pan Am, which debuted right here on The Sleeping Shaman, is a well-sequenced upbeat, bouncer wherein Bureau again makes his presence felt with both his vocals and his killer clean guitar rhythms and noodling. Phantom begins its journey to its conclusion with the full-on ‘70s cocktail-bar energy of Transatlantique, where, if one closes their eyes, it’s easy to imagine this track in a smoky, dimly lit bar, draped in tobacco-stained red velvet walls as Peterson’s keyboards serve as the perfect time portal.

Scorpio is the early ‘70s sonic equivalent of watching the sun rise, while the penultimate Micro Cosmos In A Drop sounds pretty much what you’d expect from a song with that title. The track fits in nicely as the late-album rocker with the band hitting the throttle as much as anywhere else on Phantom. Featuring plenty of understated crash and bash from the rhythm section and all sorts of delicious shred from Bureau, especially during the spacey outro, which is as ever, accentuated by the ever-tasteful organ flourishes. Closer, Friend is a melancholic bluesy affair and could easily be placed as a closer from any laid-back, late ‘60s mellow rock album, and I mean that as a compliment.

It sometimes blows my mind that bands dwelling in these early ‘70s sounds seem so capable of crafting an album in the digital age that could easily be mistaken as some long-lost psychedelic album form that era. Phantom sounds fantastic, all of the instrumentation is warm, lush and organic, especially Bureau’s guitar, vocals and lyrics, which address the shit-show of the modern world but could easily be transported to the late ‘60s and be just as relevant.

I enjoyed Phantom quite a bit and could easily imagine it as a great Sunday afternoon soundtrack. Unsurprisingly, The Sonic Dawn are on Italy’s Heavy Psych Sounds, which, at this point, goes without saying that the label is the global leader in all things heavy, psychedelic and fuzzy, and they certainly fit in well with the rest of their roster. Recommended.

Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Scribed by: Martin Williams