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Painkiller with no Expiration Date - 90%

bayern, May 19th, 2017

Algophobia started their ascension at the same time as Sadist both acts honing their weapons with some really good progressive/technical thrash on their early demos. Algophobia were the more proficient outfit their “Dreams” demo containing stylish technical music quite reminiscent of Coroner. One year later the style had already moved towards more aggressive deathy sounds still preserving the technicality. The band had to pull themselves together in order to catch up with their Sadistic compatriots who already had three full-lengths by the end of 1997…

And they did, albeit partially, with the album reviewed here. What can be noticed from the first notes of the opening “Darkness” is the increased amount of melody and the more smooth riff flow which was quite hectic, to these ears for the better, on the demos. The melodic undercurrents create a stark contrast at times with the harsh witch-like vocals which are omnipresent, and occupy quite a bit of space. Speedy escapades haven’t been provided abundantly which in its turn gives the guys an opportunity to experiment with more flexible elements, like the quiet balladic interludes on “Lord of My Lost Dream” this number also containing a few pretty wild passages as though to ensure some kind of compensation for the meeker additives; those speedy moments come with a strong thrashy flair that brings the sound back to the first demo. “Hate” delves deeper into the ballad, nothing “hateful” here, before some bizarre acrobatic shredding begins literally out of nowhere the surreally hissing on the side vocals creating totally outlandish atmosphere; the guitars become more technical with time reaching a peak towards the middle logically replaced afterwards by a stroke of dazzling leads and another slab of unexpected hectic, atonal surreality. An absolutely brilliant, eccentric piece of music which brings Carcass’ “Necroticism…”, Atheist’s “Unquestionable Presence”, and by all means something else to mind that wasn’t created at the time.

The expectations after such an unforgettable showdown are quite high, and “Sea of Illusion” tries to deceive the listener that it would provide similar entertainment, and for a bit at the beginning the audience will sense a similar way of execution with a really eclectic rhythm-section which jumps from mid-pace to blast-beats and vice versa, but apart from this short cut the rest is more stylish progressive melo-death the melodic leads at the end a tasteful addition. “Dreams” is the vice highlight, a speedy amorphous progressiver with offbeat rhythmic leaps and bounds mid-way, and a great quieter deviation. “Eternal Hope” is a relative relaxer with linear mid-paced riffage, and “Vibrations of Peace” “vibrates” a bit more technically, but remains long on atmosphere and spacey progressive build-ups. “Christ Nails” brings back the thrash, and this is the right decision as the guys mosh with more vigour and also style with rolling guitars and several interesting virtuoso accumulations which give way to more brutal death metal-ish dashes to make this compelling rifforama even more entangled. “Mental Creation” is way more than just “a mental creation”, an aggressive deathster with wild less controlled rhythms and a few intriguing more technical insertions ala Atheist and Gorguts. “New Guide” is the encompassing progressive saga, also the closer, a labyrinthine affair with a thick reverberating sound, plenty of time and tempo changes, intense hyper-active “skirmishes”, and more bizarreness which would have matched the one on “Hate” if it wasn’t for the constantly barking vocals which deafen the original fretwork going underneath them.

A really strange recording that one has to listen carefully in order to detect all the nuances embedded. To these ears it’s uneven with one absolute peak, and a few other moments that come close. The problem is that once this peak has passed, the fan will start looking for similar signs of greatness, and may ignore some worthy moments along the way. The not very smooth transition between sharper, more technical and more elaborate progressive passages is another unmitigated flaw as though the band strove to balance between the two approaches, but the thick guitar sound definitely favoured the latter reducing the guitars’ sharpness to an extent. Why they decided to utilize it remains a mystery; the riffs used to click and clock on the demos, and wherever they weren’t heard clearly, it was because of the sloppy production. Here the thick riff miasma settles in at the very beginning, and never leaves. On the other hand, it gives the album a fairly individual aura recalling the works of the Russians Shah, the Norwegian avantgardists Ram-Zet, and Coroner’s “No More Color”.

The Italian death metal scene of the late-90’s had already filled with talented outfits like Gory Blister, Aydra, Karnak, Coram Lethe… Sadist were still around leading this colourful pack, and Algophobia could have also had a leading position with their characteristic, unique sound. Alas, they were one of the earliest sing-offs from the train that later crossed over into the new millennium to experience another revival of the classic metal laws. Were these auteurs scared that they might get hurt by the retro tsunami? Possible. Have they managed to overcome these irrational fears, though? Yeah, most likely, judging by this thick stylish miasmic cloud descending from the Apennines…