Phlogiston Catharsis by P.H.O.B.O.S.
"Whatever you call it, black metal or death metal or whatever, it's not important. Why bother about stuff aside from the music? Why create a thing that has no importance besides the music? Why even care about styles, images and nationalities? Stop the bullshit and play music. Or fuck off and die."
-Thomas Börje Forsberg (Quorthon)
A quotation more fitting than a coffin straight from the hellish mouth of Bathory mastermind found right on P.H.O.B.O.S.’s website, as this about sums up the attitude of their latest record, Phlogiston Catharsis. Actually, if that quotation were amplified, drenched in darkness, chewed up by neospawned demons in a realm beyond our own, and spat back into our puny human ears for our listening “pleasure”; that would adequately suffice at capturing the vibe of this record. Certainly not for the faint of heart - or anything else, for that matter - these Frenchmen extremists are the farthest thing from afraid to dive into a void of musical experimentation and perhaps human combustion only produce one of the most deliciously inhuman, evilly hypnotic, hauntingly brutal sounding metal records ever committed to vinyl. Lo and behold P.H.O.B.O.S., enchanting us with their debut offering from our pals over at Transcending Obscurity, Phlogiston Catharsis is anything but a catharsis. Unless of course, you find cathartic release in ungodly melodies, fiery atmosphere, and everlasting voids (guilty as charged); then read on for the details. If do not enjoy your music sounding like such scenarios depicted above, I suggest you stay far, far, away. You’ve been warned.
As we do here, exploring musically uncharted territory, I’m honored to have DCL lose its French musical virginity to Phlogiston Catharsis, which would be about as enjoyable as it sounds. The real life equivalent would probably be virginity loss in a dimly candle lit dungeon within the Catacombs and engulfed in a Satanic orgy of pseudo-sadism and extraterrestrial rituals (with a bloody good soundtrack, of course) which.. as they say, could go either way. Depending on what floats your boat in these kind waters, I suppose. But let’s not get TOO weird right off the bat or anything, right?? Way too late for that. P.H.O.B.O.S. certainly does not agree, as they couldn’t start things off any weirder than with Biomorphorror, the opening track on their record. Introducing themselves with indistinguishable distorted atmospheric industrial cues before engulfing us with a lurking doom riff and percussion from devil himself. Subtle, right? The thing that immediately strikes me, thew me for a loop, and hurled me right back around into listening to this record countless times, is the unique tempo and overall hypnotic nature of the music; yet still existing in a very “metal” world. The glacial, heavy, slow, and doom ridden metal is played through what sounds like a Resident Evil-esque surivial horror industrial soundtrack, only probably much better. Clocking it at over 6 minutes, the album opens up with not so much a bang (no sexual pun intended) but a grim spell that compels you much like the power of Christ to listen to the rest of the record. And that you should, because it only gets more and more intriguing.
Giving a track by track review of this album would not only be monotonous and uninteresting, but rather simply pointless, as the songs themselves seem not to matter quite that much. Yes, my friends, this album is another album that is meant to be listened to… as an album. Imagine that! Not saying that the songs individually are inconsequential, I just can’t imagine throwing on, say, track 6 of this record, listening to it, then moving on to something else. Certainly that is fine and could be enjoyable but you’d be doing yourself a grave disservice as this music is arranged in such a way that each song feeds off one another, very cannibalistic, in a sense. Yes, the musical cannibals P.H.O.B.O.S. have a record that plays out very much like a sound track to your worst (or best - depending on your level of computability with things like death and eternal suffering) nightmare; each song representing a dark corner of the world you are forced to navigate through. Each piece is not only very awesomely titled (Smothered in Scoria takes the cake for me) and are in their own right very strong individually, but they bleed into one another and create a certain atmosphere that simply cannot be reproduced by listening to one song. The headspace created from this album is enough to have Clive Barker himself pulling at his hair, wondering what in the hell is going on. More torturous and horrific than it is blistering and heavy, P.H.O.B.O.S. have succeeded in melting, distorting, and blending genres of music into their own deformed monstrous creation in a way that comes off completely naturally unnatural, if you will. Genuineness in music is what we’re all craving and what we all gravitate towards wether we are conscious of it or not, and we all know how difficult it is to find genuine music. Let alone compose it… let alone compose it out of the bastard children of doom, black, and industrial metal, and have it be… enjoyable? Enjoyable may not be THE most appropriate word to describe the sonic Hell created by Phlogiston Catharsis, although I certainly enjoy it, but you know what I’m saying. Creating legitimately compelling and re-listenable (many times over) industrial extreme metal borderlines on the territory of unheard of, but P.H.O.B.O.S. pulled it off… without spontaneously combusting into magma, shockingly enough.
The droning, haunting, atmospheric headspace holds strong and runs like a devilish little thread throughout the album as the “heavy metal” fades in and out, almost like an antagonizing demon of this nightmare. As heavy as some of these songs get, I’m hard pressed to find a point in the record that is the most brutal or heavy in the traditional sense of the word. There are hardly (if any) blast beats; rather the percussion adds an element of impending doom. Speaking of doom… I’d say there’s more doom metal on here than any other type of metal. Sure, the riffs and the vocals do employ more of a traditional black metal approach at times, but the are used scarcely (to the records benefit) and usually take a backseat or at most ride shotgun with the chaotic industrial horror noise. P.H.O.B.O.S. demonstrate nothing but incredible musicianship and songwriting ability, as they probably told a better horror story than most horror FILMS in recent history, as well as a beautiful “zero fucks given” attitude and musical bravery to be able to pull this off. Marrying the sludge and throbbing doom metal with hypnotic industrial/experimental music is nothing necessarily new, I’ve just never heard it done this way, and I’d bet you haven’t either. The use of the multitude of different sounds and instruments in conjunction with the records excellent yet grimy production rises it to a level (or depth) of experimentation in the metal music realm that demands to be heard by any fan of music, wether you’re down with the darkness and despair or not. As I bring this review home, I noticed on the band’s FaceBook profile that their musical genre is “uneasy listening,” and I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Challenge yourself and give this record and honest listen, the worst thing that could happen is death, right? Til next time, kids.
Gym Rating: 3/5
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