My knowledge of Cambodian metal can be written on the back of a postage stamp. In fact Nightmare A.D. is the only Cambodian band I could name. What I do know is that Nightmare A.D.’s instigator Mia Priest is a stalwart of South East Asian metal, having contributed all manner of extremity to Impiety, Absence of the Sacred and Blood Division among others. This EP is the follow up to another one, “Corruptors” in 2016.

“The Great Equaliser” opens up proceeding, and immediately draws us in with a solid, hooky rhythmic line. The recently introduced keyboards briefly put in an appearance and add an interesting dynamic. To compensate for the sheer catchiness of this song, Mia’s vocals have the intriguing mix of clarity, contempt and nastiness. Once again I found it impossible not to move to the vibe as the equally energetic “Deathtrip” fires up. The keys play their part in enhancing the sound, and this time the band assist Miss Nasty with the vocals, giving it a momentary hardcore feel. But it’s much more than that with this vibrant guitar work. As “The Great Equaliser” I was sorry when it ended.

“Pain is a Master” provides further proof that you don’t need out and out extremity to cultivate darkness. In fact this one is darker in its essence, having its base in a fusion of deep classic retro metal and crusty sludge. Mia vomits out the words, and we are taken on a journey to some dark and dingy place. The dark clouds build. Mia growls. No compromise here. A funky guitar riff ends it. There could be so much more. It’s almost like it hasn’t started. A lush, atmospheric, symphonic sounding piece provides a break in proceedings. Hammering of drums and a deep energetic rhythm reappear to break the calm. Mia spits. After the punk-like thrashing section, “Interloper” slows down and all is slowly and crustily being destroyed before us. A disconcerting break leads us back into a final section of dirty old school thrash. Another crunchy riff and an intriguing keyboard line, accompanied by Mia’s utterings of death and destruction, then bring about the imperious progress of “Vultures”. Again, there’s a mix of styles with this pungent song finally going upbeat and ending with dirty old thrash and thereby on a note of excitement.

What I really like about “Phantoms Of Our Ruin” is that there is no constraint of style. It’s old school, less new school, it’s classically metal, it’s thrashy in parts and it’s plain old crusty, sludgy and dirty, but it’s so well constructed that every song is great to listen to. Apart from the newly introduced keyboard player, the band’s been together for a while and the tightness shows. It’s always the artist’s choice to curtail songs and maybe increase the listener’s anticipation but the content of some of these songs was so rich that for me they could have gone on for longer. Nevertheless while the quantity may be lacking, the quality certainly isn’t, and “Phantoms Of Our Ruin” is an enjoyable listen that deserves attention from anyone interested in hard rock and metal.

(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)