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I'm not as big a fan of early Phobia as I am of their later work, probably because it's closer to straight crust punk than the metallic grindcore they played later on in their career. As I often say about the genre, any given crust punk might or might not be good because I'm not well-versed enough in the genre to determine it, and most crust punk sounds relatively good to my ear. This, though, actually seems less interesting than most crust to me, which is surprising as nearly all crust punk sounds exactly the same to me. I can't really get behind this though; maybe I've been spoiled by albums such as 'Get Up And Kill!'.
Barring some of the weirder tracks on this album like 'Snail', this is all essentially straight crust punk, albeit with more blasting than you might usually find. All the tropes of crust punk are represented, from the d-beat oriented drumming to the four-chord riffs and hoarsely screamed vocals. The central problem with this album is that it doesn't nearly have as unique a voice as the later works from the band, which, while residing within the metallic grindcore style occupied by bands such as Nasum, doesn't sound QUITE like anyone else. On the other hand, this album sounds quite like just about every other US crust act I've heard, and doesn't seem particularly well executed to make up for the lack of originality. The riffs are the same sort of thing you here dozens of times in every crust song and the vocals and drums aren't anything to write home about, so there's not a lot in this music to warrant the price of purchase unless you really just want to hear some crust.
On the occasion that the band feels like diverting from the formula, it's pretty sweet though; I dig how the extended intro that 'Snail' is leads neatly into the savage 'Scars', or how closer 'Ruined' goes completely off the deep end, like the noisy and chaotic US answer to 'Evolved As One'. These moments are remarkable and memorable and reflect a great deal more thought than the stock crust punk tracks which don't go much of anywhere. The problem is that these moments of avant-garde weirdness are too few and far between to really make a difference in the case of the whole album, which by and large is just as one-dimensional and uninteresting as it appears on first listen.
This album is marginally better when viewed as a straight crust one and when you ignore all the band's other work, but that's sort of a demanding way to make a mediocre album seem better. This simply isn't as interesting or captivating as the band's later albums manage to be, and so this entry in Phobia's catalog can be safely skipped. Perhaps it's good if you want to hear some straightforward crust/grind, but to those who aren't so dedicated to that corner of the underground music scene, this is probably a pass.