Despite what the name of Phobocosm’s sophomore album may tell you, there is no shortage of fantastic bands playing cavernous, dissonant death metal. So what does this young Canadian quartet do differently to quench your thirst and starve out the competition in a war of sonic attrition? Bringer of Drought’s solution is to double down on the oppressive atmosphere while somehow increasing the accessibility from the band’s brilliant debut Deprived. The end result is a confounding effort in titanic, elemental death metal that manages to distance itself from the competition.
Deprived, Phobocosm’s 47-minute introduction, was a stunning exercise in extremity. The riffs were downtuned, buzzing, and malevolent, compounding on each other to continually batter you down without any hope for reprieve. The album’s length, though nowhere near excessive, often felt like an endurance test after wave after wave of blast beats and bludgeoning chords. That album caught the attention of many listeners, drawing comparisons to other dissonant, cavernous bands like Mitochondrion and Ulcerate, but in the endless barrage of Incantation-meets-Gorguts riffs, it was easy to lose yourself and wonder where the band was going.
To address this possible shortcoming, the band appears to have made a conscious effort to pull off seemingly contrasting goals on Bringer of Drought. Phobocosm’s second release surprisingly manages to sound more immediate and more varied. Both goals are achieved through sharper songwriting and an increased clarity in musicianship.
The first objective, the increase in accessibility, was accomplished by trimming the fat of Deprived‘s run-time. Bringer of Drought clocks in at a mere 34 minutes across half the number of tracks of the debut album. The band smartly uses this more limited space to pack in more focused details. There are less walls of unending blasts to get lost in and more time signature changes and alterations in riff and pace and even feel to guide you through the many corners of the band’s unique sonic maze. Each instrument really has to shine in order to hook you over the shorter length, and each musician certainly stepped up to that task. Of particular note is vocalist/bassist E.B.’s rhythm work here; the bass lines stand out prominently on opener “Engulfing Dust,” lending the album a much beefier, more satisfying texture of heaviness than that found on Deprived.
The pronounced bass is just one of the many elements the band uses on Bringer of Drought to increase the variety, and therefore listen-ability, of the album compared to its predecessor. Although the band plays a consistently oppressive style of death metal more dependent on feeling and weight than headbangability, they change up riffs, rhythm, and tone just enough to achieve a unity of sound rather than a uniformity. The aforementioned “Engulfing Dust” and album closer “Fallen” are slower, more plodding tracks with caveman drums and lots of negative space wherein the reverberating, almost vertigo-inducing lead lines can create a sense of desperation. Third track “Ordeal” also taps into that feeling of hopelessness, but it does so with a much faster, more aggressive drum rhythm that drags you along in a stampede of double bass and fills toward an uncertain end. The remaining track, “Tidal Scourge,” maintains this uniformity with a bass groove that plumbs the depths of the ocean with its crunchy, anchor-heavy percussive attack that leaves you gasping for air and solace.
All in all, the band has achieved a momentously heavy and, honestly, depressing release that I find myself revisiting again and again largely because of the way it improves on everything the band did on its predecessor. The intent to separate itself from its forebear is also the source of its only true downfall. In seeking to be slightly more accessible, the band loses some of the downright nastiness and aggression that makes bands like Antediluvian so unique and horrifying. In seeking to be more multifaceted, the band loses a bit of the focus on killer, oddball riffs that make groups like Gorguts and Chthe’ilist so special. As it stands, Phobocosm now fill the gap somewhere between the two camps, and although distant from the others, feel a little less distinct because of it.
However, Bringer of Drought is a good, maybe even great album that demonstrates this band has the potential to keep evolving. Now that they’re learned to cut their focus into a specific, harrowing vision, I truly look forward to what to they accomplish on the next album. For now, I can simply assure you that despite the title, this band’s well of ideas has not run dry, and for this I award Bringer of Drought:
4 out ov5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
You can and should stream Bringer of Drought in full right here on Bandcamp. If you like what you hear, you can order the album from Dark Descent here. Be sure to stop by Facebook too and tell Phobocosm the Toilet said, “I’m thirsty.”