From the frozen wastes of Canada comes the world’s most fiery new band. Formed in 2013, this Alberta-based trio count among their ranks the bassist of brutal deathers Display of Decay, as well as the guitarist and drummer of blackened death troupe Dire Omen. If those bands fall into your “nod along and pretend you’ve heard of them” category, fret not, because Phylactery is something else entirely. With debut Necromancy Enthroned, these Canucks have taken death metal and infused it with enough thrash to make Slayer gag. You like Sweden’s Merciless? Been asking for a thrashier Gospel of the Horns? How about a death-ier Absu? Phylactery answer your prayers with a 35-minute onslaught that will beat you down like a two-story goat monster whacking away a horde of swarming skeletons.
I won’t mince words: Necromancy Enthroned is the riffiest album I’ve ever heard. This album makes Master of Puppets look like Music for Airports. This album makes Sodom look like Sunn O))). This album is the reason why my socks remain unfolded while I stand over my bed playing air guitar. Over these 11 tracks, not a single measure is wasted on an empty chord, cleanly picked interlude, or ambient intro. Instead, guitarist Tyler Goudreau delivers a nonstop stream of thrashing riffs that are wilder than a rabid dog and catchier than whatever I caught that summer in Saigon.
Furious, feral, ferocious — all the best “f” adjectives apply, including “fuckin’ thrashtastic.” These riffs pull from every trick in the book – vicious rapid chugs (opener “Risen Restless Dead”), smoldering tremolos (“Where I Dwell”), boom-doosh chord strikes (“Enslaved by the Dawn”), cruising mid-tempo builds (“Fulminations”), and frantic staccato power chords (every track on the album). More importantly, the riffs flow and morph naturally throughout each song’s runtime, effortlessly avoiding choppy transitions while fostering memorability. Take aforementioned “Risen,” whose main progression prowls along like a starving jackal amidst a row of Nocturnal Graves. Likewise “Eyes of Fury and Flame” rises high on a melodic Desaster verse before inflicting some twisted Morbid Angel notes and a swift crunchy groove. But the most headbangable moment of the record (and possibly the year) lies in closer “Eat of My Disease,” which bursts into a bouncing punk beat and simple two-chord riff that will have your doctor asking why your neck is shaped like a crowbar.
In fact, the riffs take up so much of the spotlight it almost feels like a moot point talking about anything else. Nonetheless drummer Kevin Trueblood is no slouch either, delivering relentless and battering beats that propel things along with an Absu-like urgency. Trueblood even takes note from Absu’s Proscriptor by serving as the band’s vocalist, punctuating his rhythms with a feral, spitfire rasp. The production is also nothing to cry about, remaining dry yet spacious with a healthy DR that conjures an appropriately barren atmosphere.
Yet for all these positives, Enthroned‘s biggest strength is something of a double-edged sword. This is an album that lives and dies by the Almighty Riff, wasting no time on depth, nuance, or even guitar solos (hell, the only song with a fucking solo is second track “Wisdom of Heretics”). While the raw energy and sheer abundance of ideas make for an exciting listen, a few more songwriting twists like the closing Slayer melody of aforementioned “Disease” — not to mention a bit more overall character — could have really elevated Phylactery above the pack.
Still, the fact remains — Enthroned doesn’t just rip, it rips your intestines right out of your bung hole and eats them while you watch in horror. This is a good album for the same reason the last Mad Max film was a good movie: when the action is this enjoyable, you don’t need much story and intricacy. The fact that Enthroned succeeds so well based almost solely on the strength of its riffs is more than enough testament to its quality. Fans of Possessed, Morbid Saint, and other manic death-thrash are sure to love this, as is anyone who isn’t afraid to start shitting a stream of molten lead. When it comes to Phylactery, not even Canada can cool this heat.