P.H.O.B.O.S. describes itself on its website as an act for “freaks into extreme doom, industrial, and black metal.” In all reality, the French’s sophomore album, Anoedipal, is a genuine alliance of the three, showcasing a complex set of influences ranging from Neurosis to the noise/drone scene. From the ambiance to the artwork, everything seems to have been intelligently designed to the most remote and minute details, and all of this in a spirit of dissonant and sublime aesthetics.

This sense of discordant beauty is felt throughout the album. The sounds and noises are polished to give the listener a feeling of uneasiness and distress, with a slight psychedelic edge, most likely due to the miniaturization of their tempos. The beats performed by drum machines are subject to nicely set effects, including very recurrent echoes, adding to the despair, darkness, and helplessness of the mood.

The vocals, borrowing from industrial and black metal traditions, are aggressive and clear, giving opportunities for the lyrics to reach the listener directly. Their use of feedback and other “unwanted” noises is prominent, but it becomes clear that the band is in control of their sound, guiding it exactly where it was meant to go. It is indeed evident that P.H.O.B.O.S. leaves nothing to chance, and puts a full effort in the production of their music, contrarily to the lo-fi routine found in the black metal and noise scenes.

The lyrics are compareable to creative collages composed of bits and pieces of morbid poetry, but can also follow a clear path of thought, such as in the final track. In the booklet, the lyrics are superposed with Stefan Thanneur’s amazing artwork to give a good juxtaposition of image and poetic imagery, all in a good spirit of doom and disaster. It is interesting to see that although French, P.H.O.B.O.S. truly master the English language, to a point where the vocabulary used in their words become roots for arcane conspirations and other pleasantly sombre feelings.

The influences portrayed in that second album are unexpected and discordantly coherent. One can sense a mild stoner rock influence, most particularly in the second track’s guitar parts, but also a noise and dark ambient feel, and this from the very introduction of the opening track. P.H.O.B.O.S. experiments with the fusion of those influences as one would juggle with a dozen lit torches, but manages to succeed and to perform an intelligently dark and cacophonous release.


- Romain Bonilla / jan.2009