Friday, March 25, 2016

Phobonoid - S/T

Stately and powerful, Phobonoid’s self-titled debut album is an industrial black metal voyage into the unimaginably cold and dark corners of space. While bands like Darkspace embrace the infinite vastness of space on a kind of existential or psychological level, Phobonoid’s approach, while grim, reflects a much more curious and awe-inspired view. For this Italian solo project, space is something to explore - and the album’s lyrics are a bleak science fiction journey. We follow the sanda (probe) through an explosion, an armada attack, and even some radioactive ruins. The album’s narrative comes across musically as well. Phobonoid uses a varied set of approaches across the album to give a sense of progression; some songs rely on somber synth pads, while others are heavier and distinctly hostile. In fact, the vocals are so subdued that the bulk of the story is told through the instruments.

The album’s mood is extremely interesting because the sense of exploration is always countered by a kind of disappointed feeling. It’s as if the musical narrative takes you through the expanses of the universe to discover countless planets - each of them long dead and forgotten. Throughout the album, the lead guitar journeys across chord progressions in long single-note patterns. These are contrasted by the pulsing and mechanical percussion samples that act as the album’s ever-steady engine (“Tachyon” is a particularly obvious example of this.) The tremolo picked rhythm guitars often mirror the percussion so tightly that the two are effectively inseparable. A result of this is that the chord progressions are rhythmically (and often melodically) conservative, but this aids in directing the focus onto the lead melodies. It works well because the lonely guitar leads are intriguing enough without grand melodramatic moments. Even the ambient parts of the album maintain the thick mood: the swelling pads are unmistakably wistful, while deep echoes and sparse composition establish space’s magnitude.

It’s worth noting that this is a really unassuming piece of music; even the catchier heavy moments are far from flashy. The quality though, still shines through. A nice grinding low end, aggressive riffing, compressed vocals so subdued and distorted that they seem like they are coming from a brick building down the street. Everything on here is well done. Even polar opposites are executed well: “Eris” gallops along while completely soaked in adrenaline, and later a light touch of panning on the introspective “Tachyon” adds a great deal of depth to the instrumental track. Phobonoid started off with a very promising demo, and this forty minute full-length improves and expands upon that sound. This album is absolutely recommended for fans of industrial black metal or for those that enjoy a cosmic tinge to their music.

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