without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Phazm should be praised for their unique take on black metal. Actually, the band terms their music as “black rock’, which at times is the most accurate description of the ensemble. There is a good amount of blasting here as well, however. The group works hard to create a frightening ambience, both instrumentally and through the use of a highly original lyrical concept that revolves around forests of trees taking revenge upon humanity, assumedly for their use of SUVs and the build up of manufactured waste such as paved roads which has now infiltrated anyplace that is touched by the human presence.
‘Inchaos’ makes for a chilling introduction, with its sick bassy tones and darkened barking from Pierhryck. The band strikes at the root of Venom and old school Bathory, while branching out into some original tempo changes accented by a sick undead sound that retains underground intensity while coming off a material that is straightforward enough to appeal to a wide variety of listeners. The band writes songs that are long enough to get into in an in depth manner as opposed to creating blasts that just fly by at supreme velocity, arrangements are a strong part of the music of Phazm, and the band has obviously spent a good amount of time getting these songs set up in a way that will not only be attractive to aficionados, but also aimed at keeping things interesting for the group to perform as well.
‘Resinous Balm’ is abrasive and detuned, designed for headbanging and doubtlessly dark. The strains of ‘Forest Recipe’ are relentless as the group grinds out some pure hyper-speed blasting. Throughout the record, the band utilizes sound effects that sound like lumbering, walking trees. ‘Devoured’ contains some thick, sludgy riffing courtesy of Pierhryck and Pathryck that creates a completely nightmarish tone as the band backs up the raspy barks of the frontman with a solid, pounding attack. The record features some awesome cover art that maintains a consistent theme throughout the booklet, which stimulates some interesting and entertaining mental imagery. If what you crave is black metal that is both adventurous and original, this is a release you’ll surely want to attain. But, keep a couple chainsaws handy, just in case!
Well, consider me surprised. Phazm, on the surface, would appear to be another generic modern metal band with absolutely nothing to distinguish them from the horde of overproduced snoozers. However, it turns out they’ve managed to successfully fuse death metal violence with a large dose of traditional doom metal. By which, I mean the direct descendants of Black Sabbath – bluesy, swinging and darker than the inside of a coal-bucket on a new moon. Admittedly, the two are usually kept fairly separate, blast-beats alternating with the slow, crushing bits, but occasionally they’ll mix things up a bit to great effect. There’s also a fair whack of newer Darkthrone in their sound, filthy beer-can Hellhammer riffs and straightforward drumming taking over almost entirely at the end of “What A Wonderful Death”. That’s not to say this is black metal, since it lacks the atmosphere for that, but it’s definitely rooted in the traditions of early-80’s satanic metal.
Another oddity is the band’s lyrical concept – this essentially involves vegetation taking anthropomorphic form and attacking humans. This theme runs throughout the entire album, with the obvious exception of the closing Motorhead cover “Dogs”. Vocals are mostly a hoarse rasp, neither a death growl nor a black metal shriek – quite different to the norm, but it fits the style quite effectively. The songwriting mostly sticks to the same structure, although the oddity that is “Forest Recipe” sticks out like a sore thumb.
This is a good one to check out if you’re looking for something with a bit of “groove” which manages to avoid monotony. It’ll appeal to fans of gritty stoner doom as much as it will to avid death metal freaks (well, not so much for admirers of technicality, but if you get a kick out of slow, sick stuff like Asphyx and Obituary, you’ll love it). Bonus points for the raw, natural production job too. It would have been all too easy for them to conform to Osmose’s usual scooped-to-hell digital sterility, but they avoided that in favour of a warm, fuzzy mix which benefits their style a hell of a lot more. Watch out for those trees!
‘You better not go into the woods today, be prepared for a big surprise…’ - More bizarre French metal for you here folks - Phazm - an obscure four piece formed in 2003. Thematically, Phazm present themselves as some sort of ‘Trees of the world uprising’ supporter, what with their crazy cover art and subtle use of foreboding horror soundtrack samples involving forests and scary woods – kinda like ‘The Evil Dead’ meets Tree Beard in ‘Lord of the Rings’. At the very least, they have an interesting starting point.
Getting past the ‘tree’ thing, musically Phazm present themselves as a rather eclectic mish-mash of styles that only half works. Osmose have these guys labeled as some sort of ‘Black n Roll’ band (fuck these pigeon holes!) mainly due to a couple of mid tempo ‘Motorhead/Entombed’ rock n roll style moments they’ve employed on some tracks. But really there’s just as much black metal meets death metal blasting on this as well - I guess Osmose are trying to find an angle or original selling point for the band so hence the ‘Black n Roll’ aspect. Yeah, sure it’s there; but hell, it’s nothing unique or overly exciting, believe me.
Listening to ‘Hate..’ it was clear to me that Phazm like to mix things up a little. They try not to be too predictable – this is where the mid tempo elements of their music works to their benefit. The faster blasting type characteristics recall the usual players in extreme music – a touch of latter day Satyricon, a bit of Dark Throne and Enslaved. Phazm’s base sound is firmly entrenched in the black metal style, without the harshness or cold atmospherics that the aforementioned luminaries display. The Entombed groove, Motorhead rock and some well-placed NWOBHM lead solos give Phazm a more individual sound.
Unfortunately, I can only give the band half marks for their efforts because as much as I recognize their willingness to re-jig a well-established sound, I have a problem with Phazm’s song writing. At this point in their career, Phazm’s song writing lacks cohesion. There’s a ton of ideas laid down on ‘Hate..’ and with it’s beefy production many of the track stand up better than they could have with a lesser sound, however I don’t find myself drawn to anything in particular on this disc. Nothing gels; nothing connects with the listener. The riffs just aren’t strong enough; the mid tempo rock moments not groovy or catchy enough.
Phazm are still a slightly strange unit for me. They seem to have established some sort of style for themselves, but they might need to decide whether it’s going to be purely black metal based or rock n roll. With some tightening in the song writing, things will no doubt improve on the next album. At the moment, Phazm don’t have the legs to anything more than a bizarre curiosity in the extreme music scene.
Krozza: written for www.pyromusic and walls of fire.