Phobophilic – Enveloping Absurdity Review

After hearing the first few seconds of “Survive in Obscurity,” I knew I wanted to review Enveloping Absurdity. Infectious death metal riffs, raw energy, palpable fuzz – the song had everything I could ask for. Enveloping Absurdity is a debut, but Phobophilic has an EP and a split with Sedimentum under its belt, getting picked up by Prosthetic in the process. These Fargo natives play death metal that is as gruesome as Fargo but much less distinctive, preferring to dwell in the darker corners of old-school death metal. Revivalist metal can be hit-or-miss, but I approached Enveloping Absurdity with a pretty damn positive first impression.

Phobophilic’s style lands closest to bands like Incantation. Aaron Dudgeon and Josh Poer’s guitars buzz and roar throughout the album, with a combination of lively death metal riffs and death-doom designed for maximum violent fun. Christian Alm’s thick bass lines not only form an ever-present backdrop, but also frequently swoop in and steal lead melodies from the guitars (“​​Those Which Stare Back”). Each of these elements shines because of Enveloping Absurdity’s spectacular production job. The album is a tactile experience; the guitars ring out with fuzz that grazes your skin, the bass lines are an enveloping cloak, and the drummer is going ballistic in your living room. The textures of every drum beat and every vibration of every string contribute to Phobophilic’s sound. Enveloping Absurdity may be loud, but it manages to give every part of the band a pitch-perfect opportunity to stand out.

Enveloping Absurdity is a cornucopia of headbangable riffs. Phobophilic’s style works best when the band is firing on all cylinders. This often takes the form of no-frills fun, and album highlights like “Enveloping Absurdity” and “Those Which Stare Back” are guaranteed to make you grin even during passive background listens. While Enveloping Absurdity isn’t revolutionary, Phobophilic does flex its creative muscle at times, like the proggy midsection of “The Illusion of Self” and the climactic layering in “Survive in Obscurity.” These breaks from the routine grab my interest and avoid the usual monotony of OSDM. Meanwhile, Vincent Tweten’s varied drumming both leads and follows the pace of the music, and his unrelenting performance is central to the success of songs like “Cathedrals of Blood (Twilight of the Idols).” My one gripe with these high points is that they tend to be short-lived, with monstrous riffs often showing up for a few measures and then disappearing without a trace. This may have been intended as a feature but it sounds like a bug, as it dampens the power of the album’s strongest sections.

Despite its strengths, much of Enveloping Absurdity is unlikely to stick in my mind. While many of Phobophilic’s riffs are earworms, others fall flat for a variety of reasons. Some are too slow and lifeless (“Entiandromia”), some sound like generic mid-paced OSDM (“Survive in Obscurity”), and some feel like lackluster jumbles of notes (“Nauseating Despair”). I never regret listening through Enveloping Absurdity, but these sections disrupt Phobophilic’s momentum and cause my mind to wander as the record progresses, even as my feet keep tapping. Phobophilic also has a tendency to string together unrelated ideas with abrupt transitions, making the album feel less cohesive and less memorable (“Entiandromia,” “Nauseating Despair”). The notable exceptions to this make it clear that Phobophilic knows how to craft compelling songs when they put their mind to it. “Cathedrals of Blood” accomplishes this particularly well, using the interplay of all 4 instruments to carry ideas and connect them fluidly. Another surprising highlight is the interlude “Individuation,” a post-metal track in which textured bass lines and beautiful dancing guitar melodies swirl into a hypnotic soundscape. I wish Phobophilic had been this thoughtful in constructing every song.

Phobophilic is within range of standing out in the old-school death metal scene. Enveloping Absurdity has flashes of brilliance that surround me with irresistible riffs aided by a bang-up production job. These great moments are punctuated by uninspired generic death metal, and glued together by songwriting that is mixed in quality. I’ve enjoyed each listen through the record, but it’s unlikely to have staying power in my rotation once the next good death metal release hits. Enveloping Absurdity is still a solid debut from a talented crew with all the tools to make a great album. Phobophilic isn’t quite there yet, but they’re on the right track.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 16th, 2022

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