Review Summary: A superb progressive death/doom album, and easily one of the best metal releases of the year.
Coming out of obscurity, Psychosis
is a refreshing surprise. With a strong foundation in progressive death and a depressive tint in the form of a doom influence, the album rarely gives you a chance to stop and take it all in. Whether it is the faster, technical and more ‘brutal’ moments, or the slower melodic passages, Brisbane based Phalanx keep originality and good song-writing as priority number one. With the recent popularity of anything mediocre, Phalanx’s Psychosis
is a welcome change.
The way complex and technical music is used nowadays is getting increasingly stale. Necrophagist is amazing in small amounts, but the latest album from Arsis lacked solid songwriting, seeming technical merely for the sake of being technical. This has somewhat become a trend, but fortunately for us Phalanx chooses not to comply. Don’t be mistaken in thinking that Phalanx are similar to the aforementioned bands; they’re not. It may seem arbitrary to use them as a reference, but the point is that Psychosis
uses technicality sparingly, when it really counts towards the mood of each song and not at each and every opportunity. Technicality is merely used as a tool to add another level of intricacy to the music, but this is far from technical death metal. Even so, the lead guitar work on most if not all of the tracks is elaborate and well crafted, lead guitarist Roma Ivakov making good use of arpeggio sweeping and various other techniques. Moreover, the band achieves a strong balance between the music and the vocals; as good as the vocal performances are, they are not overused, and really allow the music to take control of each song. Perhaps to make a point out of this, Phalanx close the album with the instrumental ‘Ultimatum’, which sublimely combines all the elements that shine on Psychosis
, bar the vocals.
On the topic of vocals, they are a communal effort by the band; bassist Chris Cox is the main vocalist, but both guitarist Nicholas Rees and drummer Edwin Shoesmith are credited with backing vocals. The majority of the vocals are a midrange growl akin to Dark Tranquillity’s Mikael Stanne, but they’re frequently dropped to lower gutturals. Clean vocals are also used and vary depending on where they’re found . Multiple voices create a sinister effect in ‘Thoughts in Exile’, while the same formula creates an astoundingly different effect on the tracks ‘Emptiness’ and ‘Solitude’, both which are the most doom influenced tracks on the album. This is probably the result of the difference in the tone of the accompanying music, further proof of how the atmosphere created can make a huge impact on other elements, such as the vocals.
To credit the band further, repetition is non-existent on Psychosis
. There may be similar ideas, but each song easily stands on its own. For example, opener ‘Thoughts in Exile’ is an aggressive and unrelenting track, while the second track ‘Zerzura’ is an almost futuristic sounding song, due greatly to the input of keyboardist Rob Ryan. The doom influence can hardly be heard until the third track ‘Emptiness’, which is an epic piece in itself, and possibly the album’s best. ‘Mountain’ is a staggering track similar to the opener, and as mentioned before instrumental closer ‘Ultimatum’ is a wonderful way to finish the album off. The importance of Ryan’s keyboards on Psychosis
cannot be understated. Whether he is taking a more prominent role, or simply adding a smoothing layer of synth to cover the music, he really makes a difference. In that regard, all five members contribute equally, and have their fair share in determining the outcome of the album. Furthermore, the band isn’t afraid to allow its various styles and influences to mesh together, giving the music a unique and diverse sound. Too many similar bands distinctly separate their influences, having a soft passage followed by a heavier one, and so on. This is not to say that Phalanx completely avoid this, but there is generally more liquidity throughout Psychosis
, allowing the different influences to gel together more so than they would normally. Little things, like the keyboards over the heavier parts in ‘Mountain’, or the prominent bass line in ‘Ultimatum’, really make more of a difference than one would expect.
While it’d be wrong to come into Psychosis
expecting a masterpiece, it most certainly is a well made and enjoyable album. It doesn’t overstay its welcome in terms of playing time (just over 40 minutes), and does not at any stage become repetitive or stagnant. It’s the sort of album you can take pride in listening to, while enjoying it thoroughly. Ultimately, Psychosis
is a refreshing album in the wake of a sea of mediocrity. Being just their debut, we can only commend Phalanx for their effort, and hope that they continue with what they’ve started.