posted on 2/2009 By:
The industrial metal genre is one I generally find too bleak and depressing to spend a great deal of time with. As much as I appreciate and respect a band like Swans for example, it’s very rare that I actually feel like listening to them. Give me the speed and thrills of grindcore or the twists and turns of death metal most days and I’m grinning. In terms of sheer negativity, Philistine aren’t terribly different from their contemporaries. The band don’t offer much hope on Black Hymnal (as if you couldn’t guess from the title), and every track is a slow, merciless exercise in hateful doom and gloom. However, Philistine do possess that elusive something that makes them worth hearing. In addition to some tidy songwriting, there’s also a fairly adventurous crossing over into various metallic styles rendering Black Hymnal a compelling listen.
The ‘industrial’ tag I apply loosely to Philistine and mainly for ease of reference, because apart from the mechanical plod of the drums, this is more a doom metal outfit with black and even post-metal flourishes. Early numbers “Dybbuk” and “Kasper Hauser Safe In the Arms of the Blue Fairy” set the tone for Black Hymnal’s first half, both featuring a steady, pounding rhythm section, repetitive guitars that slowly grind you down and anguished, antagonistic vocals. Initially there appears to be little differentiation amongst the nine tracks here, especially in the drum patterns. However, repeat listens reveal the album’s subtleties and less obvious influences. The mark of Neurosis for example can be felt on both “Genovese Syndrome” (in the riffs) and “Strigoi” (vocally). Final number “Job” meanwhile is perhaps Philistine’s most fully-realized song, with a harrowing emotional core supplemented by ambience, piano and a closing spoken word section.
Black Hymnal is all up a promising effort from Philistine. While the similarity between the nine compositions on this album is a slight drawback, the band's ability to integrate a number of metal styles into their own distinct sound is a real plus and bodes well for future releases. What Philistine have going for them is succinct songwriting, musical ferocity and a nasty streak that’s rather compelling. Doom, industrial and black metal aficionados should take note of Black Hymnal.
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