A frightening glimpse into the future reveals an inevitable dystopia. It is safe to say that if modernity progresses at its current rate of consumption and callous disregard we are doomed. The exact degree at which is left to the imagination: from the total post-apocalyptic to the science fictitious. All we know is that the cycle of order and chaos determines that structure will collapse only to create a stronger order again. We are destined for that collapse. Our rapid expansion of technological dependence and loss of humanity exponentially lead to something out of the imagination. The mechanized whirlwind found on P.H.O.B.O.S' (FR) recent offering Atonal Hypermnesia transplants the listener into this not-so-impossible future and gradient struggle. It is an ominous mix of harrowing industrial and haunting blackened doom metal, robotic but with a very human source at the core. The sound of an industrial wilderness radiates forth and delivers prophecies of the end, which ironically is the beginning of a whole new future for (trans)humanity. These truly are prophecies in a religious sense, since an undeniable mysticism resides underneath these tracks. Regardless in what direction things lead, it is hard to actually imagine losing that human spark. No matter how inorganic or transhuman we exist there will always be that human strive for intangible otherness, or "higher power" if you will. Despite a phase change in framework and deity, as long as even a fragment of humanity exists then so will the tendency to search for some kind of spiritual meaning, even futility amongst the wasteland.

The dominant synthetic percussion drives the point of mechanization home harder than anything else on Atonal Hypermnesia. One can almost see the dying sunlight weakly pushing through a black sky. One can hear sounds of soulless weaponry fulfilling its destiny. One can smell acrid expulsions blanketing the once organic green earth. This is the soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic nightmare. However, this isn't just imagery for the sake of solely building atmosphere, no; this is simply setting the context for the machinations of this album. Beyond the reverberating percussive hits lies a formless chaos of guitars evoking swarms of discordance and hitting ungodly low tones. In this loosely structured mass exists shreds of malevolence and fury. At least these are signs of some form of human emotion, and in this bleak time it is a welcome alternative to nothingness. Additionally a harrowing bellow lurks in the swarm, barely perceptible. A hellish voice transmitting more terror and strangely some kind of devotion to the void. All and all it is a grim reminder that at the core of all this mayhem and destruction is a human design. Those familiar with the output of Blut Aus Nord or The Axis of Perdition may begin to grasp what is at work here. The same level of fear exists but the industrialized elements are much more prominent, slightly more reminiscent of Author & Punisher's blend of man and machine than any kind of metal band. At times we lose the entire human element all together as the machine begins to take over, and we are assaulted with ambience and merciless percussion. Undoubtedly it is a certain inevitability mocking our doomed future.

Beyond the obvious apocalyptic bleakness is the unavoidable spiritual dimension that complicates matters even further. Titles like "Maelstrom Mani Padme Hum" and "Transonic Mahasamadhi" suggest that a personal religious impulse can exist in this soulless age. Even in the most inhuman context does the soul desperately latch on to something, albeit equally futile and perverted. The chaos, the void, and the machine have become the sources of ascendance and enlightenment. When there is nothing else to worship, we will worship our enslavers! All memory of the old gods have been eradicated, but the same spiritual strife is embedded in whatever strands of DNA are left and takes on a similar framework. Unexpectedly, it is a spiritual struggle playing out on Atonal Hypermnesia, but a spiritual struggle for the ultimately destructive. This is the most frightening revelation P.H.O.B.O.S. could have provided: total obliteration and replacement of the human on the deepest possible level.

P.H.O.B.O.S. has constructed such a dense atmosphere on Atonal Hypermnesia that it is more of a believable landscape, complete with its own grim prophetic allusions. There is an undeniable tension between man and machine, organic and inorganic, that plays out in all parts of the music and themes. In the end there is really no final statement to be extracted, only a horrific possibility to bask in while enduring the industrial doom assault. And what is to be said about the meeting ground of the soulless and the spiritual? It is a completely other battlefield with ultimately terrifyingly high stakes. There is a powerful sense of ambivalence for the misanthrope to revel in post-apocalyptic scenarios: on one hand there is a feeling of justification that society is hurdling towards its demise, and on the other there is the reality of actually confronting this total loss.


- Shawn Hache / may.2012 (4.5/5)