Phobetor – When Life Falls Silent
Black Jasper Records
Release Date: 17/07/2020
Running Time: 40:10
Review by Steven Hooke
For as long as time has been a follow-able construct in the eyes of man, there has been a constant battle between generations. From music to money, business, politics, how to properly cut the grass and everything in between, the old guard stands firm in their belief in that back in their day, peace and tranquility roamed the land, whilst the new kids on the block offered up new ideas and alternatives. Following into this extremely prolonged metaphor is London-based trio Phobetor and their seeming attempts to blend the duelling generations together through the medium of death metal. A genre definitely not drenched in creative misalignment.
The debut album features vocalist Debora Conserva and guitarist Mitch Revy, flanked by new drummer Marc Dyos from the symphonic power metal band Pythia. Together, the trio forge their own path into the world of death metal, combining the songwriting tropes of today with delivery and presence of classic DM. The modern-day elements unsurprisingly hold up pretty well, Revy’s guitar work and the constant churning of riff after riff after riff is amongst the highlights of the album, with particular mentions going to ‘Blind Widow’ and ‘Bury My Name’, and their respective incorporations of groove metal and the Gothenburg metal scene in at the highest tier. However, these riffs are difficult to spot in the first few listens due to the old school death metal durge-sounding production style.
Now, far be it for me – a self-confessed production snob – to criticize the production of a debut death metal album. But this goes beyond me wanting every album to sound as crisp as a Devin Townsend-directed Pringles advert. There is a strong argument that a strong debut is trapped behind questionable production choices. It takes decent headphones and a little concentration to truly hear the ideas Revy has conjured up, and they simply just don’t crunch in the way they’re meant to.
The album, as a whole, is drenched in modern creative ideas. From the dark orchestral opening of ‘Merging Infinity’, to Conserva’s albeit rare dabbles with clean vocals, Dyos’ more progressive rolls and fills, and the frequent tempo changes, it’s all so far removed from the old school days of “play fast, be heavy”.
Whether it was a stylistic decision, a financial wall, or if Conserva and Revy had a particular idea for the album before the introduction and experience of Dyos (as well as session bassist Richard Hunter from Maelstrom) came into play, remains to be seen. But something that they definitely should be holding on to for the follow-up is the range of their frontwoman. Conserva combines the low-end, bassy gruff of Angela Gossow, with the strong, unwavering screams of Dani Filth, resulting in a dynamic warcry performance that greatly succeeds, in spite of the noted turn-offs. Focus on any of her screams throughout the album and they are pristine, razor-sharp, and often the most commanding part of a song.
While we have been spoiled over the past few years with near-perfect debuts (Conjurer, Fvneral Fvkk, Møl) it’s often missed that it’s possibly the hardest album to get right, being the starting block for a band’s image and their presence in their respective musical community. Will “When Life Falls Silent” set the death metal world on fire? In its current state, my guess would be no. But, that is not to say there’s nothing here. Individual components of this outfit are there itching to break out, but some serious consistency needs to be established to really define what kind of band Phobetor wants to be.
01. Merging Infinity
02. A Toxic Lie
03. Whispers of Dissonance
04. Blind Widow
06. Bury My Name
07. Harmony of Solitude
09. When Life Falls Silent
Debora Conserva – Vocals
Mitch Revy – Guitar
Marc Dyos – Drums
Richard Hunter – Bass (Session)
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