Monday, February 16, 2015

Phobonoid - Orbita

Industrial black metal isn't exactly the most crowded subgenre around. But when you think about the usual bands associated with that label, it’s obvious how competitive the field is. With that in mind, it’s impressive just how tall Phobonoid’s debut EP Orbita stands among its peers. Stylistically similar to a blend of Blut Aus Nord and Thorns, this 20 minute release comes close to matching the very high standards set by these well established acts. Just in case the title, band name, and cover art failed to make it obvious enough - this release also has a strongly spacey vibe to it. This vibe, coupled with cold tones and mechanical percussion, makes the EP nestle right into a niche that begs to be filled.

Orbita almost seems to be spilling over with more ideas than the solo project can manage effectively. This is a great problem to have, and even though some of the songs come across more like patches of musical vignettes, the overall mood is never interrupted. Overcoming this issue and establishing stronger senses of individual songs or recurring motifs would go a long way toward propelling Phobonoid well into the top-tier. In part, the issue is that Phobonoid doesn’t have much in terms of a high end melody to direct the songs. If used in moderation, this missing piece would help further the mechanical feel, but the high end’s absence goes a bit too far here. “Deimos,” the closing track, is a great contrast for this, showing exactly what was missing elsewhere. Although the soaring guitar melody only starts at around 1:40, it still congeals the song together in a profoundly compelling way. While the subdued and sparse vocal style can’t really fill the lead melody role, Phobonoid obviously has another tool available. 

Despite the cold and mechanical mood, the sonic quality here is lush enough to deserve many repeat listens. Take for example the swelling intro to “Vuoto,” which is cracked open with a cymbal hit echoing into the infinity of space. What’s also really nice about this is how the guitar tone isn’t taken to the digital extreme because it fleshes-out and enriches the mix. Perhaps as importantly, Orbita strikes a thoughtful balance between the rhythmic pummeling of industrial and the wall-of-sound guitars that form the basis of black metal. In short, it’s an extra layer of heaviness, not an unwelcome injection of dance music. Even in the absence of individual songs or even strong moments to hit you over the head with the EP’s quality, Orbita is a forceful introduction to Phobonoid. For anyone into industrial black metal this is absolutely a band to pay close attention to.

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