My only previous encounter with French industrial death/doom outfit P.H.O.B.O.S was their Triunity split with Blut Aus Nord a few years back, which should at least give you an idea about the kind of headfuck you’re going to encounter here.
‘Biomorphorror’ gives you a far better idea. In a few moments of a slow sliding, buzzing riff and echoing background P.H.O.B.O.S trap you in some derelict hulk, a vast place of dripping liquid, oil and rust metal, crawling sounds in the recesses, light from a single flickering industrial wall light and the simple knowledge that you really shouldn’t be there. And that what else is there with you shouldn’t have learned to crawl.
It’s such an immediate, intense pull that you get no chance to align yourself or find any orientation. It is slow, deliberate and ominous in the fullness of that word. Things are going to happen. ‘Igneous Tephrapotheosis’ moves into the clanking engine room with half buried voices and a metronome beat, a vague hint of the original Tetsuo: The Iron Man soundtrack, as wrong, as driven. The atmosphere is intense, disturbing, noises dropping in, slipping away, reaching for you from behind. It’s an incredibly intense opening, all at once plunging the listener into a biomechanical nightmare. ‘Zam Alien Canyons’ murders in like a death metal version of Front 242, vocoder voices whispering in and out of the Godflesh riff avalanche. ‘Aurora Sulphura’ grinds and snarls its way around discordant guitars and unpleasant keyboards. ‘Neurasthen Logorrh’ managed something close to a bitter and disorientating melody. Nothing is hurried, the pace is slow and deliberate, relentless for the most part. ‘Aljannashid’ eases back on the industrial crushed a little, a strange almost middle-aged aura surrounding it as then rhythm steps close to that Godflesh trip hop shuffle, voices like djinn muttering malevolence into your ear. ‘Smothered In Scotia’ has perhaps the moment where black metal reaches closest to the surface and then is enveloped in alien intrusions.
Throughout this, although I can’t quite nail down why, I am not just kidnapped and held in this nightmare place but I find it hard to compare them to anyone directly. They are not as abstract as some, despite being steel bending heavy they are not at singularity forming levels of heaviness. They somehow retain distorted threads, tendrils maybe, back to EBM and European industrial sounds. I suppose you could mention The Axis Of Perdition, Portal, Blut Aus Nord, Godflesh, Frontline Assembly and some gibbering outtakes from the Event Horizon soundtrack as being things that if you like those, you should give P.H.O.B.O.S a go.
Mostly though this is the most relentless, wrong, nightmarish beautiful and intense album of science fiction horror I have heard in an age. Uneasy listening indeed.
- Gizmo / sep 2018 (9/10)