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Sunday 10 December 2023

Reviews: Phobocosm, Bjorko, Clouds Taste Satanic, Ektomorf (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Rick Eaglestone, Rich Piva & James Jackson)

Phobocosm - Foreordained (Dark Descent Records) [Paul Scoble]

Hailing from Montréal, Quebec, Phobocosm have been making music together since 2008. The three piece have released two albums before Foreordained; their debut, Deprived was released in 2014, and two years later in 2016 the follow up Bringer Of Drought was released. The band, made up of J.S.G. on drums, S.D. on guitar and E.B. on bass and vocals, have taken seven years to record and release Bringer Of Drought’s follow up, has the wait been worth it?

Phobocosm play a style of death metal that is definitely not for the faint hearted, to say that it is extreme feels like an understatement, the word extreme doesn’t seem, well, extreme enough. Another factor about this album is the use of extreme doom, and yes that is extremely extreme doom, very slow and very, very heavy. The slow and very heavy sections that pepper this album remind me of acts such as Abyssal, Drown or Lycus, in that they have the same crushingly heavy feeling of oppressive impenetrable density.

Foreordained is also lacking in melody or solos, this is clearly by design (I’m not trying to suggest they forgot melody and solos) the album has a real feeling of intent and focus, this album has been carefully constructed to have a specific effect on the audience.

The album is split into six songs; a short opening track and then five longer tracks. Opening track Premonition is a great example of slow and super heavy, murky doom style on the album, the riffs have a lot of dissonance, another thing this album specialises in. The vocals are very low gutteral harsh vocals and fit perfectly with the dense and ultra heavy material. 

On all of the other tracks the slow and super heavy is mixed in with super fast, dissonant death metal. The riffs drip dark dissonance from every pore, they also tend to be extremely fast with bordering on super human drumming. The drumming is one of the more obviously impressive parts of this album, this is an amazing performance, fast and complex blast beats that manage to be pounding fast and intense whilst at the same time feeling huge and expansive, which is one hell of a trick to pull off. 

On the track Infomorph the blasts are super aggressive and nasty, but also feel huge, it’s like watching someone play Pinball with Planets. There are some interesting blast beats on the track Primal Dread that have much more use of toms than you would expect in a blast beat, giving the sections this is used on a feeling of massive solidity and weight, as if this music had been created at the heart of neutron star, under unbelievable pressure.

The band are also creative in how the blasting fast sections performed. On the song Revival there is a section where the blast section has a short pause before going strait back to blasting. This has the effect of pulsing the blast beat section in a way that works very well and is very original. This style also helps make the section that follows feel more extreme, as it is one continuous blast.

The style on Foreordained is as I’ve mentioned very extreme, and a lot of that comes from the incredible speed of the blasting sections, the riffs and beats are unrelenting, savage and so, so Fast. At one point when I was first listening to the album, I remember looking at my stereo and saying “Bloody Hell, you’re not messing about”, and some of that comes from the breakneck speed. 

Final and inaccurately titled song For An Aeon (which is just over seven minutes) is a mix of huge and heavy and very fast blasting sections that are almost ridiculously fast. The fast sections feel like what I would imagine falling into a threshing machine and being threshed to death would feel like. The combination of these staggeringly fast parts coupled with the super slow and crushingly heavy is such an effective combination, the two different styles accentuate each other making the song a fantastically effective, and a great way to end the album.

Foreordained is definitely not for everyone, a lot of people who read this blog won’t get it at all, but those of us who do, will love it. There are not many places you can go to for this level of concentrated aggression, dissonance, savagery, hugeness and fury. The blasts are some of the best you will find, the speed, accuracy and ferociousness is amazing, and the slow and heavy section are some of the most effective I have heard, horrifically heavy and dense, the combination of the two takes this to another level completely. If you are into really extreme death metal, then say hello to your new favourite album. 9/10

Bjorko - Heartrot (Svart Records) [Rick Eaglestone]

An album 15 years in the making, Amorphis Guitarist Tomi Koivusaari flies’ solo for Heartrot

Even though the birth of this project started a decade and a half ago most of the tracks were written and recorded more recently which is clear in its presentation and variation, there are some blistering heavy tracks mixed in melodic flares with Icleandic, Finnish and English vocals. Particular highlights for me include World As Fire And Hallucination which features Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir and in stark contrast the prog/jazz laden instrumental final track Reverberations.

"Heartrot is a personal vision that's naturally influenced by all music I have subjected myself to over the years. It is in a way a soundtrack to an imaginary film. Musically the album's guiding themes are a strong visual connection to nature and moods that are rarely happy or positive. Melancholy is always looming in the background", says Koivusaari, who in the past studied movie sound engineering among other things.

Every song on the album features a different vocalist, who Koivusaari picked by intuition, usually when still working on the composition. Different vocalists and the various languages that they use (Finnish, Icelandic, and English) are a conscious choice to make the album less of a harmonious package. "It is a solo album, but each vocalist has brought their own character into the work, strongly. Most of the vocal melodies are written by the vocalists themselves. The demo versions I had of the songs were rather refined already but the talent, ideas and nuances brought by the guest stars are an essential ingredient in the mix."

The album really develops over its 41-minute duration and gives a real snapshot into the influences of the guitarist and gives the listener a plethora of diverse soundscapes to really invest in. 7/10

Clouds Taste Satanic - All I Want For Christmas Is Your Soul (Kinda Like Music) [Rich Piva]

My Christmas wish list this year included asking Santa for doom covers of Christmas classics, and, well, look what we have here! My all-time favorite instrumental band, Clouds Taste Satanic, bring us four doooooooooooooooom covers of some of the most annoying Christmas songs and actually makes them listenable, this coming from a guy who wants to thrash whenever one of these annoying earworms hit the airwaves. Only CTS could get away with this, and get away with it they did, as this may be one of my guilty pleasures of the year.

I mean who decides to do a doom cover of all time most annoying Christmas song, the one by Mariah Carey that shall not be named? You know the one, and yup, they went there. CTS keeps it more upbeat than just about any of their other songs or covers, but to say this makes that song listenable now is an understatement. 

The killer guitar work is the perfect replacement for the vocals and the band somehow makes this one not something that triggers me. Highest praise there. I am pretty sure the Grinch is into doom, so he himself would appreciate the chunky cover of his theme song. The fuzzy riffs on You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch are just perfect and if there is a more doom Christmas song, I am not aware of it, except for any of the material from The Riverbottom Nightmare Band, which would be an excellent double bill if I do say so myself. 

Let’s just call out the brilliance of covering Spinal Tap’s Christmas With The Devil on a CTS Christmas EP. So great and it is a track that should be added to their live set immediately. You never thought you needed a doomed-up version of The Little Drummer Boy Clouds Taste Satanic style until you hear this new holiday classic. That boy may love his drum, but he digs the riffs too.

I finally have a second go to Holiday record in the Clouds Taste Satanic Christmas EP (the other is Oy To The World by The Vandals). All I Want For Christmas Is Your Soul is super fun, expertly played, and a great way to annoy your family during Christmas happy hour or whatever your traditions are, but going forward you can now make your Holidays way more doom with Clouds Taste Satanic. 8/10

Ektomorf - Vivid Black (AFM Records) [James Jackson]

Hungary’s Ektomorf have an extensive back catalogue built up since their inception in the mid 90’s, with vocalist Zoltan Farkas the only original member still standing. Their musical roots were very thrash and death oriented but have added a groove metal influence into their songs.

I’m Your Last Hope (The Rope Around Your Neck) sees Farkas channeling his inner Corey Taylor, just listen to the way he performs the vocals and you’ll hear what I mean, in fact the whole song has a Slipknot feel to it, minus the beer keg drums and DJ.

Die follows and again that Slipknot comparison is the first thing that comes to mind, a quick Google shows that both bands began at a similar time, so despite the geographical distance between the two, a sense of similarity isn’t too unlikely.

About halfway through Never Be The Same Again and we get that Corey Taylor comparison coming through again, this was after me not actually thinking that this guy is just copying/mirroring/maybe an inspiration (of/for/to) Corey Taylor.

And it’s beginning to become an issue for me because now that I’ve made the comparison between the two, it’s all that I can hear and that’s a f**king shame for as far as I’m concerned CT has become more of an ego than a frontman, no I don’t care what he thinks, never have and never will.

Fade Away contains a clean/growled vocal line that plays one against the other and whilst I quite like the idea of clean and growled vocals within a song, I personally find it far more interesting than just growling all the way through, the clean vocal; whether performed by Farkas or another band member; isn’t that great.

Title track Vivid Black has a darker tone to it than anything before it and made a welcome change but it’s not long before that Slipknot similarity plays out again with The Best Of Me, You Belong There and REM.

The songs are short and concise, essentially nu metal with its blend of thrash and groove metal riffs, well written, full of as much angst as you want within the genre and more than enough to get your head nodding, it is quite a good album all round; I’ve not listened to the band’s back catalogue to determine whether they’ve always had this sound or those kind of vocal patterns that remind me of you know who, from the bio they have adapted their sound as I said in my opening statement, including groove metal into a more thrash like style.

So to sum up, if you like Slipknot, you’ll probably like this. 5/10

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