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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Icon of Phobos - Icon of Phobos (2011)

Band: Icon of Phobos
Country: Los Angeles, California
Style: Black Metal
Label: Baneful Genesis

Let's face the facts here, without black metal bands that stay true to the genre's more traditional standards, more experimental and creative bands wouldn't be as impactful as they are. Having said that, there is without a doubt a surge of talented younger bands that are staying true to the genre's foundational roots but making it sound a lot more interesting than perhaps some of predecessors had. While I wouldn't say I actively search out bands like this as much as I do bands that are blatantly more experimental, when I come across ones that either have interesting looking covers or I read/hear good things about I certainly become interested. I saw this album last year and was debating to review it, which ultimately didn't end up happening, but when I was sent a message about reviewing it, I was in no way going to turn it down.
Atmospherics and textures aside, songwriting can be the deciding factor when it comes to a lot of records, of any genre, and it's where I see a lot of bands fail. I'm certainly not opposed to a song being simplistic if it's really catchy, proven by some of my more mainstream reviews, but when a band can just craft songs that are interesting without inherently doing anything out of the ordinary that's when I really get interested. I really enjoy when a band can just hammer away something that doesn't sound like it's trying to be different but manages to just have a special quality to it that manages to capture a unique idea. I mean, for the better part of this record, it is certainly aggressive and hard-hitting, but there are moments on here where atmosphere just becomes a part of the band's sonic spectrum as well, and for a band that really doesn't have that whole ambient or atmospheric sound, when those parts hit, it makes you listen.
Sonically, these guys definitely have more of a thrash influence coming through than a lot of black metal bands that I've heard recently, when it comes to newer groups anyway. The elements of thrash are the most obvious within the solos rather than most of the riffs just to be clear though. A lot of the album is fast paced but will often have its slower moments in a given song, The Shrouded Worm for instance, where a more atmospheric and at times sludge influence is embraced more fully. The slower parts really grabbed me because of the drumming, which I found really explorative in comparison to a lot of other bands who attempt slower sections with black metal, it wasn't simplistic and run of the mill time-keeper playing, but had a real sense of making parts stick out more. The blending of these elements, none of which really ever overpower one another at any point during the album surprisingly, helps to create a sound that isn't so much original, but one I'd definitely call on the verge of being unique to these guys. There are moments where parts do feel like they might run on a bit too long or where certain parts may bleed into each other, but there really isn't much in the way of these guys moving even further into a unique sound on their next record.
It's definitely a very strong record that I think has the potential to cross over into non-black metal circles and appeal to fans who may not even like black metal all that much. Keep in mind, I don't think this is a masterpiece, I do believe these guys can make a better record in the future, but for a debut, it is very promising. Keep an eye out for these guys, I can definitely see them getting bigger in the next couple of years.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Harbringers of Ruin, Analgesia, Misogyny In The Flesh

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