Phobocosm’s commitment to dark, devastating death metal could cause panic on ‘Deprived’

PhobocosmI have a tendency toward anxiety. I’m medicated. I deal with it. But it’s something that’s always creeping behind me and can snag me when I least expect it. After too much caffeine, after too little food, during cold and flu season. It’s lurking at all times, and I try to do my best to steer clear from anything that triggers those feelings.

That’s one of the reasons I’m so perplexed by my interest in Phobocosm, the Montreal-based death metal band that is offering up its first full-length effort “Deprived.” It is 48 minutes and eight tracks of absolute penetrating, slow driving, panic-inducing fury, and every time I experience this album, it makes my brain tighten, my fists clench. Weirdly, records and bands this claustrophobic tend to signal those tendencies toward anxiety. I’m talking bands such as Portal, Paroxsihzem, Mitochondrion, Abyssal, groups I can file Phobocosm alongside and feel OK with the decision. The music feels like it’s trying to press you down, turn gravity against you, and trap you against your will. I also am not a fan of close, tight spaces, and this music makes me feel like that’s where I’m being stored. Yet, as unpleasant as sensation as that may sound coming from “Deprived,” it also is enthralling and a way to face those issues without the real threat of having something to fret about. It’s cathartic in a sick way.

Phobocosm coverAs noted, Phobocosm is a new effort, comprised of four incredibly accomplished musicians–vocalist/bassist Etienne “E.B.” Bayard, guitarists Samuel “S.D.” Dufour and Rob “R.M.” Milley (also of Neuraxis), and drummer Jean-Sebastien “J.S.G.” Gagnor–who have joined forces to create something mind altering and completely dark in nature. There is an astonishing level of technicality to this band but never at the expense of the savagery and suffocating ambiance. The band committed itself to churning out dark death metal, something they accomplished with great precision, but there are many other elements thrown into the mix such as doom, spacey strangeness, black metal, and so on. So it’s not pure death through and through, but that sure as hell is the base. And it is outright terrifying at times.

The terror begins early with “Sleep Deprivation,” a murky, swelling instrumental that sets the tone for the record and could have you suffering from a lack of slumber via your heart pounding too hard. That bleeds into “Solipsist” that’s built on boiling doom, sticky black melodies, and harsh vocals that sound painful to emit. The guitars rise up and threaten fire, with some crushing riffs spilling down, and the final moments of deep trucking heads right into an unforgiving pit of mud. “Knives in the Senate House,” which sounds like a dream scenario for some people frustrated with their own nation’s politics, begins with bendy guitar work that could cause head tilts, infernal growls, and depressingly dark tones that drape everything in horror. The band manages to kick into an even more brutal gear as the song winds down, with the fury reaching a fever pitch. “Solar Storm” feels like just that, with a raucous dizzying opening, chunky bits of thrashing designed to break skin, and throaty growls that collide with a composition aiming to tear down satellite communications and leave the world in the dark.

Speaking of which, “27 Days of Darkness” lands with a charnel thud and no hint of mercy on the horizon. The track is crunchy as hell and thrashes away during the verses. Elsewhere, the guitar work floats into the clouds and charges up the atmosphere, while the vocals lurch like a fatally injured beast. “Drowned” lets noise bleed all over, making the terrain slippery and gooey, and the track is full of sickening punishment that could make you feel like you’re being swallowed alive by a black body of water. Finality arrives when the band starts experimenting again, getting a little gazey in the last few minutes of the cut. “Awaken Unconscious” pounds away from the start, drubbing relentlessly, with the vocals sounding monstrous and bloodthirsty. The run of this is nasty and bizarre, with odd noise zaps leading into the finale “Forever in Doubt.” That weird interference acts as a launching point for this one, before those strains are blown to bits when the song ignites. Grisly vocals combine with heavy, massive doses of chaos that eat away at your mind and induce a final wave of panic. The darkness they create is smothering and impossible to overcome, as the guitars switch back and forth from blazing over top the track to grinding beneath the oppressive rhythm section that’s also doing its finest burying you for good. The final moments play like impending doom, a rogue star bringing extinction, a raging fire devouring terrain, or simply your mind turning against you and robbing you of the ability to reason.

Death metal should be brutal and scary, and Phobocosm’s debut “Deprived” certainly lives up to those standards. It gets your nerves in a bundle, your pupils dilated, and you possibly reaching for medication. On top of all that, it’s also a fantastic record that’s just the first step for this devastating band. They have the chops, a properly dark demeanor, and a sense of dread in their music, and if they continue to go down the rabbit hole they’re in now, their next record might be able to put you into a full-blown anxiety meltdown no drug could possibly treat.
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