Vincas Credit: Courtesy of Learning Curve Records

Not to make light of the profound suffering and loss of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s been a while since death and despair sounded as much fun as they do on Phantasma, the new third record by Georgia four-piece Vincas. These southern gothic firebrands have spent much of the past decade making maniacal death-punk and postpunk with a stomping garage-rock fury and a devil-may-care attitude straight from a 60s outlaw biker flick. On Phantasma, the group shake off some of the fuzz that fogged up the swampy 2016 LP Deep in the Well, leaning instead into their lusty, horror-laced storytelling. Slow-burning opener “Until It Rains Red” blends warm, doomy guitars and heartbeat drums while ominously warning of bad fortune ahead, and from there the band tear off into a world of hip-shaking, psych-fueled ecstacy. The title track is a smoldering tale of ghostly apparitions that hunger for the sweet taste of blood, while steamy taunts such as “I’ll build a bed from your bones” on “The Witch” sound fit for a dance club in hell. Bassist and front man Chris McNeal (who also plays in decidedly less vampiric postrock outfit Maserati) can deliver velvety croons with the swaggering command of John Doe or Nick Cave, then seamlessly shift into the hair-raising screams of “Bury Me Upside Down” or “I’m Taking You to Hell.” Vincas sometimes stretch a song to five minutes, and they like stylistic twists and turns, but they’re arguably most potent when they keep things tight and straightforward—the two-minute rockabilly-tinged rager “Dead Train” is a case in point. Despite the countless times rock ’n’ roll has been declared dead, these morbid punks seem hell-bent on breathing new life into it.   v