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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

P.H.O.B.O.S. - Phlogiston Catharsis [Transcending Obscurity Records - 2018]

To achieve a original sound and stand out from the crowd, some musicians and bands mix different musical styles. Sometimes it works very well, and sometimes the result is not so straightforward ...

French group P.H.O.B.O.S. was formed in 2000. Their first EP Proto was released in 2001, and it contained a interesting blend of doom, sludge and industrial. Four years later, they released their first full-length album Tectonics, it saw the same genre blend as the EP, but recorded by only one member - Frederic Sacri. With this line-up development, electronic percussion was used in the projects sound for the first time, and this later became a common facet of the bands sound.

The next album Anœdipal, was released in 2008 and it saw the development of previous ideas, remaining within the framework of the chosen style, but slightly changing the sound making it more amorphous and atmospheric. After to this we had  2012's double 12inc release Atonal Hypermnesia, and 2014's split release Triunity- which saw them collaborating with French black metal experimenters Blut Aus Nord

And bringing things up-date, this year the band, which currently consists of three musicians, has released their fourth full-length album Phlogiston Catharsis-  this was out out by Indian label Transcending Obscurity Records, as  either a digital release, 8-Panel Digipack CD, and a limited edition of the Autographed CD Box Set, LP and LP Box Set.

The album cover is an abstract image made in brown, yellow, orange and red. We can see a texture resembling a viscous fluid, lava, or flowing paint. This is not my favorite combination of shades. It seems to me a bit annoying and abrupt, besides it looks slightly dirty. Judging by the information attached to the album, the cover was made by the artist Synckop, who previously worked with the likes of Merzbow and Deafhaven. The cover does not feature either the band's name or the title of the album.

The album, with a total duration of just under forty-seven minutes, consists of eight tracks of approximately the same length.

As I said, P.H.O.B.O.S. initially stuck to a blend of doom, industrial and a bit of sludge. On the early albums, the influence of Godflesh was noticeable, then the band went its own way, developing the style in a different direction. From album to album, the sound became more and more atmospheric and saturated with effects, and the drums became more and more industrial and hard.

If we talk about development, like evolution, then each new album should be the pinnacle of the band's creativity at the time of release. On this album, P.H.O.B.O.S. continued to evolve, but something went wrong ... I would compare it with an apple. While it is fresh, it is strong and firm. Then it becomes juicy and sweet. But here comes the moment when the apple is overripe. It bursts and a liquid begins to flow out of it ... So, the sound of P.H.O.B.O.S. is the apple that has begun to flow.

I think Frederic Sacri is a great musician and talented composer. But on the new album, he made a very strong emphasis on the atmosphere and effects. Guitar riffs and rare minimalistic solos are too overloaded with reverb, delay, and many other effects. Accordingly, the sound has become very vague. To clearly hear the guitar riff in this stream of sounds, you need to concentrate very strongly. I didn't hear the power that was on the early albums. I only heard the effects and the guitar, the sound of which was similar to the distorted sound of a banjo. But, it is worth saying that, despite the indistinctness, I liked the sound of the bass guitar.

As for the drums, closer to the middle of the album, they began to annoy me. Too sharp and loud sound of electronic drums trying to imitate a live musician's play is not the best choice of the rhythm section for such an atmospheric album. While listening, it seems that the drums are the leading instrument, and the rest of the instruments and effects are just the sound support.

The vocalist works in a style close to black metal, and sometimes we can hear clean vocals. As in the case of guitars, vocals are also processed with effects, but not as much.

I like bands that experiment with their sound, introducing elements of electronics, industrial or noise into their music. But I'm not a big fan of being too enthusiastic about such experiments. It seems to me that P.H.O.B.O.S. should have stopped in the development of its atmosphere around 2008, and in a little different way. In those riffs that I could hear in the depths of the effects, I heard echoes of the early Septic Flesh, which would be an advantage if P.H.O.B.O.S. went the other way and made the sound denser.

In general, the album stays fairly similar through-out, and it is difficult to select any  stand out tracks. For a metal album, albeit an experimental one, this is a failure. Unfortunately, Phlogiston Catharsis seemed boring and drab with very intrusive monotonous drums and dirty atmosphere. Incidentally, after listening, I realized that the cover is very suitable for the album. It is the same muddy and indistinct, like the music, presented on Phlogiston Catharsis

Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5

Sergey Pakhomov
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