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Intricate, Virtuoso, Acrobatic Riffophobia - 93%

bayern, May 18th, 2017

Please, welcome this super group that consists of members of established German death metal acts, like Fake Idyll, Japanische Kampfhorspiele, Warfield Within, Unchallenged Hate, etc. Although in each of these outfits’ style a more technical way of execution can be detected, neither of them can be viewed as a full-fledged technical death metal formation, with the possible exception of the Japanese connection. They launched themselves on the scene with the “Spreading the Plague” EP in 2009 which presented this assembly as one of the finest technical practitioners on the German metal field this side of Necrophagist, Ferocity, and Centaurus-A. Not surprising having in mind the pedigree of the musicians involved although again none of them have tried something of similar compositional intricate density.

The band’s style is hyper-active technical death sitting somewhere between the dazzling brutality movement (Cryptopsy, Suffocation, Kataplexy, etc.) and the more melodic, more digestible pyrotechnics of Necrophagist. The fretwork is very hectic with a pleiad of time and tempo-shifts as exemplified by the amorphous opener “Refuse Obedience” which never settles for one rhythm for more than a few seconds nearly reaching the chaotic grandeur of Crimson Massacre’s “The Lustre of Pandemonium”. Not that the following “An Unspeakable Creation” is much more relaxed since the rifforama on it is as jarring as ever with sudden stop-and-go rhythms and frequent blast-beating escapades. “Insatiable” is a strikingly weird piece with gorgeous twisted tunes served initially and some of the most puzzling staccato shreds ever the guttural death metal vocals amazingly trying to keep up with them, giving up on the next emergence of the eccentric melodies from the beginning which circle around playing the role of the leitmotif on this outstanding technical death metal bewitcher. One can’t help but start taking the band much more seriously after this masterpiece, and “Silvers of Glass” nearly matches its predecessor with myriads of stylish perplexing riffs bursting like a fountain, literally, from every corner the resultant drama reaching Theory in Practice-esque grandeur, the more sterile eclectic quirks in the second half also bringing Embryonic Devourment to mind. Grandiose stuff which continues mesmerizing the listener further with “The Surgeon”, a very busy whirlwind of overlapping rhythms and eclectic time-signatures the highly energetic melee also knowing its more melodic side reflected in a portion of stunning bizarroramas thrown mid-way, the latter re-emerging in the second half to an absolutely hallucinogenic effect.

The title-track is an explosion of guitar pyrotechnics the guitar players presenting themselves as the Shrapnel performers in the death metal roster, a tiring feat albeit lasting for several seconds after which come more linear blast-beating outrages only to be replaced by another super-complex cannonade; both sides take turns throughout until a very hectic stroke puts an end to the proceedings. “Preparing For…” is 2-min of spacey progressivisms and outbursts of infernal guitar shredding the former occupying more space. “… The Rise of Idleness” unleashes the next in line cavalcade of puzzling decisions the band having all the rights to be placed on top of the technical death metal world in their homeland, in front of Necrophagist, the overabundance of riffs here bordering on the beautifully chaotic with surreal scratchy additives and more orthodox thrashing near the end. “Satisfied by Capsicum” is a compilation of leaps and bounds of guitar wizardry and mellower stomping motifs the latter’s presence nearly annihilated by the urgent fast-paced riff “shower”. “Worthless” is a totally worthy shredfest with almost backward playing involved with a stomping passage utilized in the middle, its mechanized aura overwritten by more superb hyper-active musical dexterity. “Obnoxious Countenance” doesn’t abandon the fascinating, albeit overwhelming at times, formula being the closer, and adheres to similar guitar acrobatics the guys slowing down gradually until a more laid-back progressive wrap on is reached.

The essence of the technical death metal roster served within a bit over half an hour; a great job all around, an exhausting achievement, first for the musicians who had to perform on such a high level the whole time, and second for the listener who had to “endure” this elaborate panorama for a whole half hour. Necrophagist (time and again) apparently won’t be a very regular presence on the scene so there had to be another dexterous practitioner to bedazzle the audience, and also to provide some resistance to the growing horde of Death followers (The Unchallenged, Stigmatized, Subconscious). After it became clear that this gathering was going to stay together and it wasn’t going to be just a one-time stunt, it remained to be seen whether the band would be able to preserve the high standards on future instalments. “Fragments of Flagrancy” appeared two years later, and was another impressive technical death feast although the fever-pitch crescendos were toned down a bit this time, and the approach was less hectic and not as over-the-top. No complaints at all as the fanbase had time to swallow the band’s labyrinthine vistas, and to take a few precious breaths of fresh air in-between the busy rifforamas.

The Phobiatic saga carries on on full-throttle, and here it is, the third coming, a self-titled, freshly released. This third time’s not the charm, though, as the sound has become much more sterile, robotic and dispassionate, needless to add not nearly as technical, siding more with the chuggy landscapes of Meshuggah, Wormed and Zillah than with the band’s earlier displayed exuberance. A disappointment on all counts, it throws some kind of stain over the guys’ reputation… if they have gotten tired of so much musical flamboyancy, then it’s understandable. A self-titled effort always hides some underwater stones; in this case it seems more like a remedy provided against the phobia developed by some fans towards the super-technical metal roller-coaster. Once said phobia has been dealt with, the rifftastic “orgy” will surely be restored in all its multi-layered, mazey splendour.