Cornerstone Of The Macabre
posted on 10/2008 By:
Dudes from Scarve and Yrkoon get together to play quirky metal that can’t decide if it wants to be from Sweden, Norway, or the bayou. Make sense to you? Me neither, but that’s Phazm’s schtick in a nutshell. These guys alternatively brand themselves “death’n’roll” (as in their previous album title, Antebellum Death’n’Roll) or “black’n’roll” (as in the song “Black’n’Roll” from that album), and their indecision on the matter reflects their somewhat schismatic sound. Like its predecessor, Cornerstone of the Macabre leans a little more towards the black metal side of things, but takes plenty of funky left turns along the way. It’s a fun, quirky metal record, but it suffers from its lack of focus and never really escapes “disposable” status.
On a song-by-song basis, Phazm can deliver in grand fashion. Opener “Love Me Rotten (Love Me True)” rollicks forth with needling but catchy riffs and a distinctly blackened ringing feel to its otherwise chorus-driven rock structuring. The band clicks even more impressively on album highlight “Mucho Mojo.” This song pretty much deploys all of Phazm’s tricks to full effect, opening with dreamy slide guitar before rotating between hazy verses and a fist-pumping chorus. Just when it seems like the song might run out of momentum, vocalist/guitarist Pierrick Valence rips an outstanding wah-soaked solo—the man’s rock flavored leads are excellent throughout the album. These songs are marginally safe territory by Phazm’s standards, but their execution proves the band’s basic competence and songwriting flair.
But it’s Phazm’s more oddball moments that distinguish them from their many, many peers, and it’s these moments that provide the x-factor on Cornerstone of the Macabre. At times they work out well—the doomy lumber of “Welcome to My Funeral” for example—but just as often they blow up in the band’s faces. “The Worm on the Hook” bizarrely features a chunky, off-time Gojira style groove riff that couldn’t possibly mesh more awkwardly with the rest of the song’s scowling black-doom visage. Even more straightforward numbers occasionally fall prey to awkward stylistic recombination. “Damnation,” for example, attempts to blend death metal and blues-rock stomp and somehow ends up singsong and bouncy, like Entombed on laughing gas. And don’t even get me started on the acoustic “Strange Song” interlude—I know it fits your pseudo-southern theme, guys, but talk about your overused devices.
Fortunately, even when Phazm foul up, they sound like they’re enjoying themselves—check out that gratuitous cover of Metallica’s “Damage Inc.”—and it’s hard not to grin along with them. Cornerstone of the Macabre may be a characteristically awkward release from these guys, but awkward beats out boring any day of the week. This one’s worth a go if you’re in the market for something a little left-of-center, especially if you’re willing to overlook a few hiccups along the way.
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