Phazm - Phazm - Osmose Productions 2004 / The End Records 2005
Running Time: 42:42
When I heard vocalist/guitarist Pierhryck describe the sound conjured by France's Phazm as "tree metal" in an interview, I knew I'd heard it all. You can just spot-weld any descriptive term onto the words "metal" and "core" today, and wham bam! There you have a genre, thereby confusing anyone wanting to know what your band really sounds like and giving yourself a false sense of originality.
Damned if that isn't just how I'd describe this ferocious beast of an album, though. 'In Chaos' explodes like a daisycutter, scattering blastbeats and drunken power riffing across your psyche. This ain't your typical "the forest is my hidden wonderland of crimson blackness" black metal posturing either, the guitars covered over with the fuzzy moss of death-n-roll, while the pagan howls of Pierhryck hurl verbal splinters into your eardrums, daring you to attempt escape from the overgrown forest metal of Phazm. Lyrically, 'What A Wonderful Death' takes the "becoming one with nature" craze to its ultimate end with the lines "Frostbite gnaws at my face, the earth swallows my rot. Wearing away, skin turns to bark." being spat forth over a bed of gnarly, misshapen Ravishing Grimness fury mixed with the groove of Dismember's newer material. 'Resinous Balm' is a smoked-out stomping Colossus, the catchiness of the guitarwork in the chorus belied by the rumble spewed forth from Phazm. The recording of this album was done in a style most consider archaic, the band actually recording the instruments live in a studio, as opposed to the sterility of a computer lab. In my opinion, the recording benefits from the dirty production, giving the music a more full-bodied sound than something slickly processed, which would have made for an entirely different review in this case. Phazm will never be at the forefront of recording technology, and that suits me just fine, so long as the end result is such an intense endeavour. Don't call Phazm overly serious, though, the tongue-in-cheek tale of a beast's conception that is 'Vicious Seed' bristling with black humour and clearing a path for 'Fleshback'. 'Fleshback' stands out on the album, containing everything from blackdeath furor to moments of near-sludge lethargy. After the desolate reservation of 'Loneliness', Phazm further distance themselves from their more orchestral black brethren, wrapping their twisted and knotted metal around Motorhead's 'Dogs' to end the album.
In the end, this album smokes on all fronts, in all ways. Hate At First Seed is the perfect background for a night of bonfires, weed, and enough alcohol to float a barge. It's bands like Phazm, and records like Hate At First Seed that make this job fun. Tree metal, indeed...