Album Review: Phobophilic – Enveloping Absurdity

Album Review: Phobophilic - Enveloping Absurdity
Reviewed by Sam Jones

It’s been quite the journey for these up and coming death metal fanatics. Debut albums are a particular weakness of mine; i’m often quite fond when a band release their first full length record, it’s a real trial by fire as to whether a band are accepted by the metal community or not. That much is the case with Phobophilic’s first album: Enveloping Absurdity. It usually does not take much for me to warrant listening to a new death metal record however, considering the journey these guys have been, it felt all the more important to give Phobophilic their due. Formed in 2016 out of North Dakota, United States, the band have had a gradual career, slowing building from nothing to the point now where they have a decent back catalogue of material that fans could be engrossed by even before any official news of a full length were ever teased. We’ve seen Demos, a 2019 EP, a Split that released a year later until we finally, six years in the making, have the band’s first genuine album. This had been on my radar for some time and I was made up when it finally became available to check out.

The first thing that hits you isn’t the band’s performance, but the sheer tone the guitar work possesses. It’s not a pull into a nightmare as it is a clenched fist coming out from that darkness and striking you head on. While the band do play with a visceral essence and their sound feels outlined in bass, the tone they emit never leaves us. What is interesting however is while their tone is foreboding and completely consumes us and our attention, the riffs themselves aren’t always the huge, slab-like forces the tone would trick us into thinking they are. A lot of the guitar work reminds me of a Swedish style of playing where you’ve got that ripping quality to its sound, however it’s one that comes off with a deeper resonance. You’ve also got riff segments where the riffs are far more intricate, demonstrating a legitimate, technical prowess in their playing, whereby their guitarist is playing pretty methodically across his fretboard. The band aren’t just bashing throwing out riffs like cinderblocks, even though the tone would suggest they are. Looking deeper, Phobophilic give us more to inquire upon than they would initially have you believing so.

Additionally, it’s curious to note how varied the pacing the songwriting can be throughout merely a single track. Considering how the band don’t have that many songs to go off of, they needed to ensure they make the most out of what they’re providing for audiences. I was really happy to acknowledge how they aren’t just dishing out a single variant of speed for entire tracks. 6/7 minute songs churn and evolve and are constantly switching back and forth between faster and slower speeds. As the pacing alternates, so too does the songwriting itself; it’s never just one form of songwriting or aggression for the entire album. Things become more macabre as the pacing relaxes, and it also becomes intense and violent as the band pick things back up again. But it ultimately results in a record that always has something more to showcase, something more to offer in the way of entertainment.

Album Review: Phobophilic - Enveloping Absurdity

Vocally the delivery is not here to allow you to follow along to what is being pronounced. The band’s vocal performance, more than anything else on this record, is the epitome of what people going into this record, think this record will be like that. The vocals are this exceedingly deep and guttural performance that seem to fill the entire room this album offers. They’re coming from the top, the bottom, the sides of the album; there’s no escape. It’s as if they’re less a vocal performance and being utilised more so as an atmospheric presence. If we’re to judge them in this respect then the vocals are great, immersing us within this macabre environment that harbours a resounding, decaying vibe.

This is a death metal record where you can truly feel and hear the synergy working between the riffs and drumming. Much like the guitar work’s utilisation of differing pacing throughout the ongoing songwriting on record, the drums are also just as intrinsic to this alternating pace which the band are continuously throwing at us. I loved the fact that blast beats are a rarity throughout the band’s performance herein, if anything the drumming consists of pretty rudimentary patterns that keep the songwriting level and rooted to the ground. At no point do we feel like the music is escaping us or the record it’s attached to. I actually enjoyed the drums more when the pace slowed down, allowing the drums to feel more fleshed out; cymbal strikes were given greater weight and the Tom-Tom drums, possessing a pretty organic sounding and raw resonance to their strikes, feel far more deliberate and planned than simply bashing away at the drum set. Overall, this examination of the drums feels to be indicative of the record on the whole; plenty of variety, plenty to give us what we’re expecting yet far more to discover which is only bolstered by the band’s willingness to explore different avenues by which their sound may lead to us.

In conclusion, Phobophilic’s first full length release is a death metal record that understands what fans will want to find but still has plenty of tricks up it’s sleeve to help distance itself from a more generic rabble. The vocals are the most typical force on this album, being used more as an atmospheric element as opposed to lyrics you’ll be able to follow. Other than that, the instrumentation is always providing something to throw off what you think may be coming next and, by doing so, open more doors for what their songwriting may accomplish. There’s certainly merit here, merit that I wouldn’t mind seeing again and potentially expanded upon in a following record. Phobophilic may initially seem like a run-of-the-mill death metal act but there’s actually far more within to give them their own identity, and something for fans to follow closely.

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