Phinehas
Dark Flag


3.0
good

Review

by Mason USER (58 Reviews)
January 27th, 2019 | 12 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Not quite up to the usual standard, but still a decent listen

On the surface, you’d probably think discussing a band like Phinehas would be pretty cut-and-dry just by looking at the usual descriptions for them; they’re a melodic metalcore band in the vein of August Burns Red or As I Lay Dying that relies on religious imagery to shape their lyricism, and it’s clear that they have passion for what they do. One thing that has set them apart from the rest of the scene though was their ability to make the listener feel something intense; something that may be hard to put into words, yet is also just as hard to deny. Dark Flag has that signature Phinehas emotion, but it seems as if the emotional pull that made Thegodmachine and The Last Word Is Yours to Speak such compelling offerings in the metalcore genre is slowly fading away.

To be fair, it’s not like it was hard to see coming; it takes a steady flow of creative juices and an undying passion to stay consistent from album to album, and not every band is cut out to make multiple masterpieces in a row. Till the End was a slight step down from what seemed to be the usual standard, and this album continues the gradual downward trend. In all honesty, I’m not sure what to cast the blame on first. The production on Dark Flag has taken a hit, as the mixing on here is easily among the weakest links on the album. The musicianship sounds especially artificial when compared to that of their first two albums; the titular opening number “Dark Flag” and its follow-up, “Burning Bright”, are notable examples of songs that are held back by Matt Goldman’s rather sterile mixing job. It isn’t until the band slows down on “A War That Never Ends” and then “Meaningless Names” that the listener gets a full-fledged break from the sterility of other tracks. If I were to compare this to another mainstream metalcore album from the last ten years as far as its production is concerned, Miss May I’s Rise of the Lion would likely top the list.

Per usual for this band, Daniel Gailey’s guitarwork is technically sound, despite his rather muddy presence in the mix. It’s nothing particularly inventive, but Gailey gets the job done for the most part. However, this album sees Phinehas becoming nearly indistinguishable from other similar acts, as nothing on Dark Flag can quite compare to the likes of “I Am the Lion” or “Crowns” from Thegodmachine. “I Saw the Bombs Fall” is a solid track instrumentally as is “Hell Below”, but it’s hard to compare either to the masterpieces from Phinehas’ debut. Some of the most memorable moments on here are found within its slower numbers, such as “Meaningless Names” and “A War That Never Ends”. The lyrics are centered around human rights abuses in North Korea, which comes as a welcome surprise from a band that had made a name for themselves detailing the struggle between faith in a deity and the ways of the world. Vocalist Sean McCulloch delivers a solid performance, although his lyricism this time around leaves a bit to be desired for his standards. Bryce Kelly’s bass is damn near inaudible, but that’s to be expected given the lackluster production.

As I mentioned earlier, it seems as if McCulloch and co. are losing grip of their usual emotional pull; while closer “Know Death; Know Forever” attempts to replicate “Thegodmachine: The Rider”, it falls short by a fair margin. It’s almost as if the song drags on aimlessly after around the three and a half minute mark, trying to get the listener emotionally involved even though the writing isn’t quite as strong as it was in years past. Sometimes things just aren’t meant to last, and I think Phinehas are a good example of that. While Dark Flag is a decent album in its own right, it is disappointing. The musicianship is up to spec on a technical level, but very little stands out from the rest. Daniel Gailey shreds away for the majority of its runtime but doesn’t produce a ton of memorable licks. As I mentioned before, the production leaves a lot to be desired. The writing is below their usual standard, as enjoyable as it is. There still remains light at the end of the tunnel for the band though, as tracks like “Hell Below” and “I Saw the Bombs Fall” retain Phinehas’ former glory well enough, and I’m hopeful for the future.



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user ratings (77)
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
veninblazer
January 27th 2019


10167 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Alright, now all the Phinehas full-length albums have a review.

Digging: Dayseeker - Sleeptalk

artiswar
January 27th 2019


9475 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah, this album does nothing for me and My Rosary is AIDS

veninblazer
January 27th 2019


10167 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

@art: it's not my least favorite, but that track's not great.

Lucman
January 27th 2019


3342 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I don't think I remember a single song off of this. I heard it when it came out and never bothered to revisit it.

artiswar
January 27th 2019


9475 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

That's how I feel about pretty much all their albums since Godmachine... To be fair to this album though, Hell Below and Communion Of Ravens are jams. I want to be optimistic and say this band has one more classic album in them. They certainly have the technical skill, but I think they peaked too hard and fast with that first album, everything since has just been average by comparison.

veninblazer
January 27th 2019


10167 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I think their decline has been very methodical, and that their sophomore release was very close to Thegodmachine. Till the End was kinda moving in that direction of becoming unmemorable, and this is another one of those. I'm hopeful they can at least top Till the End or The Last Word Is Yours to Speak but Thegodmachine is a tough cookie.

Emim
January 27th 2019


27900 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Probably their weakest, but still really solid. Meaningless Names is my favorite.

veninblazer
January 27th 2019


10167 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

@Emim: I'm in between that and A War That Never Ends.

rafalafa
April 13th 2019


156 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is their weakest effort for sure. I feel like they kinda hit auto-pilot for this one. I was excited after Till The End because I thought they were going to go in a little further in a thrash/melo-death direction while keeping their feet in metalcore. Instead, they found a middle ground between TTE and TLWISYTS/TGM. Which is fine, just not as explosive as I was hoping it would be after TTE.

Emim
April 15th 2019


27900 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

After a certain point, the album acronyms aren't quite as helpful.

WeAreReturningHome
May 2nd 2019


8 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't know how they can make a good song like Meaningless Names yet make such a weak song like My Rosary

Danred97
May 10th 2019


2450 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Imo this is a good step up from Till The End, but not quite as good as thegodmachine, and nowhere close to TLWIYTS. Break The Earth and Communion For Ravens are two of their best songs ever though. Wish we could've got a whole album of that quality.



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