Portugal’s Phenocryst add more fuel to death metal’s raging fire on mashing debut ‘Explosions’ EP

As a pro football fan, specifically of the Steelers of Pittsburgh who represent the city in which I live, it always sounds dumb to say T.J. Watt had a good game. Of course, he did. As long as he was breathing, I’m sure he was a problem for the other team. It’s just as strange to say death metal had a great 2021 because yeah, that sub-genre has been on fire the past few years. This is not surprising.

The slate of newer death metal bands who have shown up and made a stellar effort has been refreshing, and that continues on this last week for reviews of the year for this site. Portugal’s Phenocryst are delivering their debut EP “Explosions,” and it’s such a satisfying listen that I’m already in line for the full-length. The band—guitarists/vocalists D.S. and N., bassist V. M., drummer P. Tosher—only formed this devastating union at the beginning of our diseased year 2020, but they’ve already rounded into a strong force that’s cutting their teeth but also capable of packing their goods with explosives that’ll leave you wounded and gasping on the floor. Figuratively.

“Fumarole Emanations” starts with guitars awakening and the growls scorching, hammering with infernal power. The track is absolutely monstrous as it increases the darkness, getting vicious before the track boils, growls hiss, and the attack ends in smoke. “Phreatic Explosions” clobbers as it fires up, mashing and unloading, putting on maximum pressure. The guitars tangle as things get foreboding, pummeling the earth and unleashing demonic howls, playing that melts rock, and heavy swarming before the track bows out. “Pyroclastic Flows” is torn apart by horrifying riffs and the thick basslines trudging as the pace is just shredded. Mean growls and a pace that bruises leave psychological wounds while the track blisters with death, bubbling with inhuman growls as the track fades. “Craters” thrashes with guttural growls and even some atmosphere that brings alleviation from the heat. Adventurous guitar work swarms while feral punishment is unleashed, the playing blasts slowly but heavily, and the final moments are trampled. “Igneous Fluids” is an instrumental outro that slithers along and crackles, leaking chemicals and infection, depositing the final drops of your brain.

Phenocryst’s brand of death metal may still be forming, but what they reveal on “Explosions” indicates a bright, albeit brutal future. They have a strong grasp on what they’re trying to do, and these songs form five vicious examples of what they’re capable of achieving. This feels like a dull blade being driven into your guts, pushing past every vital stretch, leaving you writhing in pain.

For more on the band, go here: https://phenocryst.bandcamp.com/releases

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.bloodharvest.se/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.bloodharvest.se/

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