North Dakotans Phobophilic go for human themes over blood, gore with ‘Enveloping Absurdity’

I was just whining a week ago about what kinds of death metal I like and that the gruesome qualities outweigh just about everything for me when it comes to enjoying this style of music. But that’s not a be all, end all for me because I can appreciate all different types of shades and approaches. To me, it’s more the way it sounds and is played. It’s that type of brutality I require.

North Dakota is not necessarily the first or hundredth place that comes to mind when it comes to devastating death metal, but there’s a good chance Phobophilic are going to change that whole premise. The band is getting ready to unleash their tremendous debut record “Enveloping Absurdity,” and this eight-track crusher sounds like the filthiest, grimiest death one can order from that perverse menu. But look deeper beneath the surface, and the pain and torment is replaced by explorations of the human condition, inspired by the works of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Fredrich Nietzsche. This band—vocalist/guitarist Aaron Dudgeon, guitarist/synth player Josh Poer, bassist Christian Alm, drummer Vincent Tweten—is here to make you think and not to bleed, and when the music hits this hard and this massively, the blood and guts aren’t missed one bit.

“Enantiodromia” slowly gets its juices flowing before the punches are thrown, and burly growls dig deep into your guts. Speedy riffs topple as the playing slices and dices, the soloing burns eyeballs, and the pace shifts one final time, crumbling into a doomy sprawl. “Those Which Stare Back” blisters as the growls go for the throat, punishing and consuming, the guitars snaking through murky waterways. The bass delivers a beating as the atmosphere bursts, twisting your brain and challenging your strength. “Nauseating Despair” trudges and decimates, spacious guitar work swelling and aligning with the increasingly violent weather patterns. Growls smash as the guitars tangle, splintering and charging to the finish line. “Cathedrals of Blood (Twilight of the Idols)” opens amid driving drums and great riffs, the growls engorging and becoming sinister. The playing turns into a practical burial of spirit, slowly devouring muscle and bone.

“Individuation” is a strange, spacey instrumental that delves in cosmic keys, bizarre whirs, and thickening bass that mixes with alien guitar work. Then we’re on to “The Illusion of Self” that fades in and then fully takes off, driving full force into your skull. The riffs destroy as the tempo stabs forward, bringing brutality and devastation, the guitars getting trickier as they form into a greater beast. The pace decimates as things melt into a slower, thornier monster, finally disappearing into the void. “Survive in Obscurity” launches with sooty growls and a chugging pace, knifing through the darkness. The growls crush as the guitar work jars your nervous system, the playing shorts out your mental circuit board as the final moments light up dangerously before fading away. Closer “Enveloping Absurdity” delivers crunching guitars and fluidity, adding that to aggression and muck that quickly begins to collect. The guitars warm up, the soloing adds crashing waves, and everything bubbles over, drowning the senses.

“Enveloping Absurdity” is not your typical death metal record at all, though it might take delving into the words and philosophical content for that to become clear. Phobophilic not only are a monstrously killer band capable of splitting skulls, they also force your brain to do some work, challenging what you know of death metal’s DNA and twisting that to their will. This record pays off all the promise contained on their earlier recordings and slams that into this beast of a debut that will just as easily take off your head as it will force you to expand your mind and thinking. It’s the best of both worlds.

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