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Affliction - 83%

Esteroth666, November 28th, 2012

PHTO, a french depressive black metal band who has a quite good reputation, not only for their music but for their history and the things they provoke in their shows such as the crowd cutting themselves. Saddy cutting himself on stage is not the only thing they're known for, but for Molasar's suicide (R.I.P.). He committed suicide around early January of 2011, and that had caught some attention.

Affliction, is a success and that's what makes them different from other french black metal bands. It consists of five tracks that gives the listener an overwhelming feeling of melancholy. Not only Saddy's tortured, mournful vocals is what gives these dark feelings but also the guitars riffs accompained by the bass and Alrinack's backing vocals. Tremolo picking is being very well executed by Malkov throughout almost the whole album at a mid-tempo, but also the clean notes used in some intros and some different parts played at a very well executed slow-tempo being accompained by some spoken words lines. I'm not very sure who played the drums but it had to be Molasar. The drums are perfectly executed with blast beats throughout the whole album at a varied slow, mid, and fast-tempo. All lyrics are written in french but it still enjoyable for those that don't understand french.

They had a few line up changes since Molasar's suicide, being replaced by Crow who left the band in early 2012 for personal reasons, but being replaced by Bartuk later on. The band played a show using a boombox because they couldn't find a drummer after Crow left, but regardless of that the band gave their all and did an awesome job as always. I'm glad I checked them out, they're worth listening to and I'm looking forward to their future releases.

Review: P.H.T.O. – Affliction (2011) - 80%

Midwinter Fires, April 28th, 2012

P.H.T.O. is a depressive black metal band from France. The music is dark, melodic and sorrowful. It’s played at mid-tempo with some brief, fast paced tempos used sparingly. Affliction is the band’s debut album, released under Immortal Frost Productions in 2011.

All of the lyrics on this album are in French but they deal mostly with depression, grief, and death. Basically the thoughts of an individual struggling to come to terms with the various aspects of life and death. The vocals are anguished blackened screams. They can feel sorrowful at times while at other times aggressive and tormented. Spoken word/whispers are also used throughout the album to add a more intimate or personal feel to the music.

The bass throughout the album really stands out. It adds a whole new dimension to the music with its sweet melodies. It doesn’t just simply follow the guitars. Instead it is used almost as a third guitar playing varied harmonies with the guitars or doing something completely different. It really punches through the music and every note can be heard clearly.

The guitars use a lot of tremolo picking, usually playing elongated melodies. Always complimented by the bass. This creates a dream like atmosphere of longing and melancholy. At different parts however, they slow down to play cleaner, softer melodious passages. The drums vary between slow/mid paced rhythms to faster paced blast beats. They don’t do anything too crazy but they do fit the music well and they sound good.

The opening track “Affliction“
starts things off with a sorrowful guitar intro. It’s clean but with some echo effects. When the song kicks in its full of tremolo picking and a very memorable bass line. It’s really the first taste of the bass lines played throughout the album. It was unexpected but refreshing to hear a bass being utilized properly. Midway through a quieter version of the verses is played with a distorted bass, clean guitars and spoken word. It once again picks up to emotional screams before finding its rhythm.

The second track “Neurasthenique” starts out in much the same fashion as “Affliction” minus the soft intro. The song quickly finds the aggression with fast vocals and a blast beat before settling down into a mellow interlude. A single clean guitar is the canvass which spoken word and anguished growls work from. I like the growls with the soft guitar line. It’s very dramatic. There’s also a subtle bass line thrown in but it keeps it simple this time. The song probably has the most variation of any song on the album.

Where “Neurasthenique” quickly finds the aggression, the third track “L’enclave” finds softer emotion.The first 2 minutes is made up of spoken word accompanied by a melodious, clean guitar. Even when the song picks up the drums and bass keep the overall pace slow and deliberate. The song manages to find a slightly faster pace towards the end as the drums pick up to a mid paced rhythm.

“Fin d’une Sombre Agonie” starts off quietly with a lower volume mix giving it an almost muffled sound. This proves effective at building the song up so that when it goes full volume it has an extra boost of impact. When it does kick in the resulting arrangement is dramatic with tremolo picked guitars and a brooding bass line that drives the song. It’s memorable with its constant groove. The song doesn’t really deviate from this rhythmic arrangement other than to transition back and forth between a higher octave.

The last track “Dansant Pour la Lune” is another solid song. It’s not overly different from the other songs but it sounds good and it’s enjoyable to listen too. About 5 and a half minutes in there is a brief interlude of sorts. Everything quiets down to a single guitar line with spoken words and blackened growls. Then it’s back to the full production for another minute or so until a furious onslaught to end the album.

P.H.T.O. have managed to put together an impressive first album with Affliction. I was quite impressed by the bass lines which mixed with the dream like guitars helped drive the songs and add extra melody. At the same time there is not a lot of variation throughout the album. The band tends to play it safe for the most part, not really venturing off the beaten path. But the production was good and maintained a level of rawness without sacrificing sound quality. I highly recommend this album to anyone into melodic metal.

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