Review Summary: A slightly more conventional but still sufficiently eccentric sound helps Phlebotomized focus and organize their sound, leading to a strong effort even this late into their career.
Phlebotomized's first LP, Immense, Suspense, Intense
is one of those albums that really could have only come out in the early 90s. A melodic but often brutal album with especially prominent keyboards, its ethereal atmosphere and frequent diversions to more symphonic elements left it as one of the unique early forays into a sound that would at least in some ways be attempted by Lykathea Aflame
. For all its strong parts, a little more songwriting polish probably would have left it as one of the most exciting musical experiments of that time. So when in the year 2021, I see the headline, "Phlebotomized Stream New EP", I couldn't help but be curious as to how this band's sound would hold up. Sure, Deformation of Humanity
did come out not too long ago, but like most people I didn't listen to it (pretty much just because of the awful cover art). So how would Phlebotomized's sound translate to the 2020s?
Pain, Resistance, Suffering
is probably the most concise version of this band's sound so far, albeit with some alterations that make them sound a little more conventional at times. No, the weird keyboard lines aren't gone, but some of the tracks have taken on a more overt melodeath quality, which would potentially be a problem if it wasn't simply much more inspired than most melodeath. The combination of a somewhat more muscular sound (thanks to a partially scrunchy guitar tone and some reasonably aggressive drumming), the band's older melodic qualities with more conventional song structuring leads to a best of both worlds situation, with more polish and focus. Additionally, Phlebotomized haven't let time get ahead of them - the violins with death metal thing has now been done to death by a host of other bands, and thankfully Phlebotomized have incorporated a range of difference keyboard textures and melodies, from weird trancy electronics to their classic violins and dense pads. With a moderately polished and modern production job, some of the grit of the band's sound has been lost, but thankfully the instrumental performance is still reasonably intense as always.
The tracklisting on this EP is almost supernaturally varied by death metal standards. With 3 tracks hovering around the 1min 30s-2min mark, Pain, Resistance, Suffering certainly has its barn-burners, especially You Have No Idea
, a frantic, dramatic and spacy offering that serves as a great break between the lengthier and more mid-paced Beheaded Identity
and Collusion Starts Here
. The functional opener, the likewise rather short title track, gives the EP a running start that it keeps the momentum of throughout, with a mix of catchy riffs, dramatic keyboard melodies and some suitably crushing blast beats to get the ante up straight away. Some of the keyboard effects add an almost soundtrack-like quality, especially on No Surrender
, which incorporates some bizarre, almost Danny Elfman
type keys into an otherwise very tasteful melodeath track. These more traditional melodeath qualities continue through to Beheaded Identity
, which is the most sombre and slowest track present, but remains engaging thanks to the excellent keyboard and effects work, along with some pretty admirably executed clean vocals.
After the somewhat more run-of-the-mill Collusion Starts Here
, which doesn't really bring much new to the table, the band really shows off their progression with the closer GPS
, which feels like a melding of all the previous elements. With some slamming riffs and blasts paired up with dramatic strings and keys, it really takes off with some unhinged melodies, settling back into a pleasant proggy groove which really highlights how much of this album comes down to the details in the keyboards. All that it really needs to be pushed to the next level is a more ear-catching riff, a problem that plagues a lot of this album; for all the work the keyboards and vocals do, sometimes the guitar riffs are just a bit too standard.
Pain, Resistance, Suffering is a great effort by a band that are by this point surrounded by others with at least superficially similar sounds, incorporating enough advancements to not leave them sounding dated whilst retaining some of their signature eccentricity. With a little more grit in the guitar riffs and some more extended tracks that incorporate a mix of elements, Phlebotomized would have their sound nailed down, but as it is, this EP is short, varied and exciting enough to be one of their strongest offerings.