If you want troo Heavy Metal from the early 1970s, it don't come much truer than this.
The addition of ex-Scorpions guitarist Michael Schenker in 1973 to UFO served to supercharge a rather dull Krautrock-style jam band into one of the first bona fide heavy metal acts - if not THE first. Schenker was chosen above Larry Wallis, ex Pink-Fairies guitarist, who would go on to join the earliest incarnation of Motorhead.
True, there had been Black Sabbath and the hordes of imitators, and there had also been some wonderful acts in the Krautrock scene, Ladbroke Grove in London - as well as across the globe in various guises - but none had produced an album which was 100% heavy metal in form, style or attitude, with the exception of Sabbath.
Sabbath, however, represent a different branch of metal, one that would not resurface for almost a decade - but when it did, all metaldom went ballistic and paid maximum homage.
What UFO brought to the table was everything about metal that Sabbath weren't. Sabbath were the dark, doomy side - but as everyone knows, metal has it's melodic side, there are swathes of bands that focus on the technical aspects, and some may hate the radio-friendly side of metal, but it's no less metal than the really unlistenable hardcore stuff.
It's also true that Phenomenon isn't 100% metal - especially in its latter half, when it kinda kicks back a little and puts its metaphorical feet up - maybe saving energy for the ultimate climax. "Queen of the Deep" contains some of the best soloing you will ever hear - but more of that later.
Musically, Phenomenon lives up to its title, with really strong songwriting and dazzling guitar soloing - the pentatonic noodly rubbish favoured by so many bands has been chucked away in favour of Schenker's trademark encyclopaedia of metal licks, based on a wide variety of scales and influences - but always with a diamond-sharp edge.
This album is the perfect answer to dandruff - simply crank it up as loud as it'll go and hey presto! In no time, you'll be banging your head so hard that the white stuff'll have no chance whatsoever.
We dive straight in to the pounding "Oh My", take a little breather with "Crystal Light" (watch out as you hold that lighter above your head - you don't want to set fire to the room above), then it's Classic time. If you don't already know "Doctor Doctor", what planet have you been living on?
Another mellifluous ballad follows, and it is such as Journey would base an entire career on, albeit a very welcome showcase for Schenker's amazing feel for extended melody.
There then follows the other track that you NEED to know, which is another Schenker showcase, and I won't insult anyone by naming it. Suffice to say that the title is the exact opposite of the music.
Side 2 is devoid of classics, infused instead with a slightly countrified air, and begins with the rather average "Too Young To Know". It's no slouch, however, with the gorgeous "Time on My Hand", the driving cover of the Willie Dixon tune, "Built For Comfort", the classically inspired "Lipstick Traces", which is a foundation stone of the Malmsteen style, and "Queen of The Deep", a metal classic that never was.
Herein lies some of Schenker's finest soloing work - an almost unplundered library of licks well worth stealing, some tasty breakdown riffs - and the single most annoying fadeout I've ever heard - it's far too early!
Phenomenon is quite simply essential listening.