If there’s any country you can trust to surrender untold riches ov blackened gold after relatively little investigative prodding, it’s France. Harboring such harbingers of box-breaching blackness as Alcest, Deathspell Omega, and Blut Aus Nord, the French black metal scene is very much alive and mentally unwell, and in France Muppet trusts. Muppet also trusts in Transcending Obscurity Records to the extent that a French black metal act appearing on their roster would normally be the epitome of Master-bait music.1 Yet when France’s P.H.O.B.O.S. found themselves facedown on the floor in front of the Angry Metal Promo Pyre, I was hesitant to save them from the flames of non-reviewdom. I trvst in French black metal, and I trust in Transcending Obscurity Records, but dare I trust anything tagged as ‘industrial doom/black metal’?
I dare, yo. Phlogiston Catharsis is colored in venomous genre shading that’ll certainly ward off weaker Angry Metal Predators, but open-minded heaviness hunters may be pleasantly surprised by the bounty ov blackened goodness to be found here. Given the garbled, guttural vocals and the menacing atmosphere that comprises Phlogiston Catharsis, I often felt like I was listening to an unholy union of Dunkelwerk and Convulsing, or maybe a Dodecahedron remix by Psyclon Nine. Such is the focus on the industrial side of things that it might almost be fairest to categorize this as dark electronica, yet I would hardly hold that against the album after having listened to it so many times. This one is sure to be panned on principle by the proud and pvrest ov the trve, but you don’t have to make that mistake. I won’t tell anyone that you enjoyed something so close to the edge of not-metal. I’ll judge you, sure, but that was always going to be the case.
Remember me bitching recently about a certain aural abortion which was similarly fueled by industrial noise, tortured screaming, and a grimy aesthetic? Given the common genre denominators between this and that, I can’t think of a better way to describe Phlogiston Catharsis than as an album where that formula actually computes and results in something significantly more successful. Openerer “Biomorphorror” establishes this right out the gate, and sets the tone for the remaining seven tracks to come by putting all the band’s weapons on display for nearly seven minutes. Thick, reverberating drums accentuated with percussive industrial atmospheres propel grim guitars à la Incantation through extra terrestrial sonic scenery, and the Dodecahedron-in-an-echo-chamber growls lend the whole ordeal a sense of organic madness that makes this cybernetic hallucination feel real and very much alive. Where Burning failed to raise more than smoke and Muppet ire, the cleaner-burning machinery of P.H.O.B.O.S. effectively burns down preconceived notions of its genre-sake and raises horns and heads in its wake, and it’s nice to see black metal taken somewhere so dangerous yet come out relatively unharmed.
While P.H.O.B.O.S. wield their otherworldly weaponry with a sense of poise and rationality, I’d still be remiss not to chime in with a “haven’t you people ever heard of closing the goddamned door and not letting all the stank out?” I say this because, for all the imaginative genre blending going on, it feels like much of the creative compositional wind got let out in the first track. Sure, I enjoy “Taqiyah Rhyzom” and “Neurasthen Logorrh” well enough, but I’d be hard pressed to identify one from the other from a 15-second clip of either. This comes not from unimaginative riffing—for the riffs n’ rhythms definitely do vary from song to song—but rather from the somewhat heavy handed application of industrial elements. Most of the album churns along at a mid to low tempo. With the constant clanging of machinery always at the forefront, things start to blend together quite quickly. To that end, the material serves as excellent background music, and everything here would flesh out a Drug Honkey, Mesarthim and Godflesh-centric playlist quite soundly.
This sonic cyborg isn’t going to steal your clothes and terminate everything in its path, yet Phlogiston Catharsis is far removed from the gaudy, goofy Inspector Gadget genreloid that I had feared. A niche album, to be sure, and one that could stand to mix just a little more life in with its mechanical madness, yet P.H.O.B.O.S. are nonetheless masters of their strange set of sounds and Phlogiston Catharsis is certainly something worth exploring. Resistance is futile, yo, you know you’re gonna click that embed to see what the fvss is about.