Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Phazm—Antebellum Death n’ Roll (Omose/The End)
It’s a bold move, naming your sophomore album after your chosen sub-genre. Seeing “death n’ roll” had me expecting an Entombed-style battering, but the “Children of the Grave” shuffle beat and honkin’ harmonica on album opener “How to Become a God” reveals a whole new wrinkle to the sound. These guys really could "play some Skynyrd, man" if they felt like it. Phazm are a weird French quartet (possibly now a trio, according to their website) whom I first noticed on the Osmose video compilation Noisymotions. Their song “Loneliness” featured visuals straight out of a cult Japanese gore flick, with the band members getting impaled and mutilated by sinister women. What’s wrong with being sexy? This new album comes with a DVD on the flip side (unfortunately not pressed on my promo copy), so some additional intense viewing awaits those who pick up the full package. Phazm’s sound here veers more towards the cosmic dissonance of Voivod and Enslaved than towards Entombed. The vocals especially have that catatonic snarl that Voivod’s Snake perfected a few albums into their career. “Hunger” is nearly as loopy as the opening track—not every band would have the nerve to pull off a slide guitar solo overtop blackened blastbeats. After “Black ‘n’ Roll,” another swingin’ number with another outburst of mouth harp, the album occasionally abandons its original premise for tracks like the strange and plodding “So White, So Blue, So Cold,” the sparse and creepy “Damballah,” and “Sabbath,” a jaunty acoustic instrumental. Overall, though, Phazm sticks to their mandate pretty well. This is twisted and heavy, thrill-a-minute stuff, with action-packed songwriting that avoids disorienting the listener with nonsensical technicality. Phazm succeed by knowing how to rock with imagination and grisly bucketloads of style.