One of the complications of writing about and conceptualizing metal in the past – well, almost a decade – has been the music’s incredible diversity and availability. With bands able to record and distribute music so easily, scenes and trends have become less important and less centralized. Sure, there’s been a huge interest in nostalgia-core – occult rock and retro-thrash albums arrive in AMG’s inbox monthly – but it’s doubtful that in 2026 we’ll think of the first half of the ‘teens as being dominated by musical throwbacks. Metal as a whole lacks a zeitgeist, and in some ways that’s frustrating, because it’s hard to keep up with such a decentralized and broad genre – but death metal, as a smaller and more manageable entity, does indeed seem to have direction. And the death metal bands of today may be shifting towards a new set of ideals.
Phobocosm espouse these ideals very well, while the standards of performance in death metal remain high, going out of fashion to remind your listeners of it constantly. The band’s 2014 debut, Deprived certainly gave them a chance to prove their musical ability, but remained steadfastly anti-technical, and was all the more powerful because of it. Bringer of Drought continues and builds on the band’s mix of doom, post-metal and most of all, punishing death metal in the vein of Ulcerate, Abyssal, and Portal.
With spacious strums and an atmosphere of unease, “Engulfing Dust” opens inauspiciously, but its doomy oppression unfolds slowly under the next seven minutes, and the song is successful enough to appear half its length. “Tidal Scourge” is even more Ulcerate-influenced, but its tempo gradually breaks into Incantation territory and intersperses double bass with simplistic, tar-soaked drumming. The guitars move in concert, rumbling in a deep dirge towards the end of a song that seems so far away, but is somehow never welcome. The band’s use of space, whether between tremendous riffs or just drumbeats, creates a constant tension that’s capitalized on at every turn. And while Bringer of Drought‘s music isn’t game-changing or innovative, it feels fresh and delivers on a visceral level.
Plenty of Incantation worship has been popping up in the death metal sphere, but Bringer of Drought is something else, blending low tempo death metal with the atmosphere of Neurosis. While Phobocosm‘s influences are obvious, I’m struck by the kind of obvious the band is; obvious not in a “bore-me-to-death” way, but in a “why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?” way. This sound is pure, living, and menacing, and thanks to Colin Marston’s fantastic production, the record sounds incredible; dynamic, detailed and organic. The drumming is especially crisp; the tom hits in the first seconds of “Fallen” and the fills in the shorter “Ordeal” make the presence of the drum-kit felt as a heavy, wood-and-bronze object rather than an instrument. Etienne Bayard’s guttural but comprehensible growls are the perfect fit for the band’s atramentous atmosphere.
While the past decade has been good to technical death metal, its time in the spotlight, glittering with sweep-picked leads and impeccable precision, may be coming to a close. The sheer oppression of Ulcerate, the atonal lashings of Pyrrhon, and the waxy, crepuscular roar of Chthe’ilist are all part of a new regime in which musicianship is taken almost for granted, and death metal must dive deeper into itself to build identity. Phobocosm‘s music is no different, and by the sound of it – and the now dozens of other atmospheric and dissonant works that bands have offered in the past few years, Bringer of Drought is the grim face of the future.