FFO: Brutal Truth, Capitalist Casualties, Pig Destroyer, Regurgitate
Phobia have long reigned as a patriarch of the American grind scene with over 20 years of proliferation that began with 7″ releases at Relapse Records when the now indie-Goliath was still in its infancy and functioning out of a basement. This was before the term “grind” or “grindcore” was commonplace among extreme music aficionados. And although the band would release their first 7″ in 1991, the turbulence of day-to-day life resulting in members changes and financial instability would see the band hold off on their first full-length until 1997.
It’s no industry secret; grind bands don’t get rich playing grind. Grindcore exists because those few bands skilled enough to contribute to this musical niche often reflect the turmoil of their lyrical themes in manifestations of their daily lives that makes these musical contributions all-the-more urgent and timely.
Tom Hanks said it best as Coach Jimmy Dugan in 1992’s “A League of Their Own,” as he stated, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great. ” And if your having a hard time pulling the image of a 1940s-era, female baseball player on the the verge of giving up the game in the same thought bubble as grind main-stays Phobia, stay with me. What I’m driving at here is the fact that bands like Phobia and their contemporaries Brutal Truth and Pig Destroyer, contribute to the musical world as a labor of love. Not because it makes life easier. Most grinders come home from tour to return to the daily grind of regular jobs and have the same bills to pay and daily stresses as we all do. It is this same struggle that makes the genre so great. Pop ambitions and “selling out” have no place in the grind world. The only choice most grind bands have is to continue the struggle for love of the music or pack it in.
Phobia have hung in for the last 20 years, producing genre defining releases that reached a zenith with 2008’s 22 Random Acts of Violence, which was released through Willowtip/Deep Six Records. With this release, Phobia stepped up the production quality with 22 tracks of pummeling grind goodness mixed with a healthy dose of modern recording techniques that saw the band capture a huge sound to compliment the ferocious instrumental and vocal attack. And although the band has seen numerous line-up changes, weathered the tour life, been attacked by crazy fans in Japan caught on RealTV, they have remembered Coach Jimmy Dugan’s rule, “There is no crying in grindcore.”
The band’s forthcoming, November 23rd release on Relapse Records, Unrelenting, is 17 tracks of grind goodness blasting in at 22 minutes. No samples, no filler, no bullshit. Unrelenting has trimmed off all of the fat for a concentrated mix of speed-metal influenced grind and punk that will surely please long-time fans and attract a new generation of grind enthusiasts.
The introduction “T.R.O.G.” is the only 45 seconds you will get to take a breath, so make it a deep one. As the intro develops into opening track, “Rehashed” the guitars and drums explode into high-velocity, choppy, power-violence structures that will surely bring smiles to grind enthusiast around the globe. The vocals seamlessly run the gambit from high end, distorted screams, to low-end, throat-shredding, guttural attacks that see Phobia reach new heights of sonic destruction. Tracks “Enemy Within,” “Sign of the Times,” and “Life’s Animosity” all follow this trend. The tracks remain punk-structured with a few repeated bars mixed in with speed-metal and blast-beat drumming that are completed with off time cymbal accents and lazer-sharp fills. The guitars remain tight and choppy, reminiscent of power-violence practitioners Capitalist Casualties, Apt 213, and even Drop Dead. The bass lines punctuate the brutality with a meaty distortion reminiscent of late 90’s era Converge tones.
We see Phobia throw back to grind godfathers Napalm Death and the Scum-era with tracks “Soon” and “Total Kolapse” that clock in at only a few seconds a piece. Nice touch.
“Tradition of Power” is the most speed-metal and thrash-influenced track on the E.P., combining the ferocity of power-violence intervals with Municipal Waste-esque guitar shredding and double-bass that will surely perk up those tiny hairs in your inner eardrum. The double-bass remains unrelenting as this driving track pummels from one riff to the next and I couldn’t help but think “This is what Motorhead would sound like on high-doses of steroids and meth.”
“Dying for Who?” and closing track “If You Used To Be Punk, Then You Never Were” are are only heavily d-beat influenced tracks on Unrelenting and they are welcomed additions. Here we see drummer Bryan Fajardo take one of only a handful of breaks from his speedy grind styling, into some Swedish-influenced d-beat punk structures that will rattle your bones. The vocals accentuate this track’s d-beat feel with low-end chants that are reminiscent of Sweden’s Wolfbrigade and even Regurgitate at times.
As they draw to a close, many grind or power-violence reviews preach the same lines, “If you’re into grind or power-violence you will love this. If you are not…” and blah blah. Fuck that. If you like music, if you like to be challenged by a record and find new elements with each listen, if you are intelligent, if you are a fan of extreme music – you will love this E.P.
Pre-order now at Relapse Records and stay tuned for our Exclusive Phobia Interview coming with vocalist Shane McLachlan later this month!
Shane “The Pain” McLachlan: Vocals
Steve Burda: Guitar
Calum Mackenzie: Bass
Bryan Fajardo: Drums
More Info: Official Phobia Website
Phobia Fall 2010 Tour with Eye Hate God
11/30 Birmingham, AL @ Bottletree
12/1 Johnson City, TN @ The Hideaway
12/2 Charlotte, NC @ The Tremont
12/3 Charleston, SC @ The Oasis
12/4 Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
12/5 Memphis, TN @ HiTone
12/6 Indianapolis, IN @ Birdy’s
12/7 Little Rock, AR @ Downtown
12/8 Fayetteville, AR @ Drifters
12/9 Tulsa, OK @ The Marquee
12/11 Dallas, TX @ Reno’s
12/12 Austin, TX @ Red 7