Next in line for the bands-who-should-be-bigger award this year is Phazm who, arguably, only have themselves to blame after an eight year hiatus that is the sort of thing that can only really be career limiting for a band still making its way. The band traditionally employed a core death metal sound – bands like Unleashed and Entombed – still at times in evidence here but to a much lesser extent than previous albums. This is more purely a blackened death metal album while also having that old French trademark – a casual disregard for genre boundaries.
Scornful of Icons manages to press a lot of buttons without ever sounding too much like its compromising itself to score points with the masses. There are some nice twists and plenty of full-on death metal of a cautiously melodic but also sometimes twisted variety. The darkest moment is the opening blast Ginnungagap – and nice end of the world which had me thinking Phazm was about to unleash a fairly dirty death metal album with that black ‘n roll twist that the band made itself known for with 2006’s Antebellum Death ‘n Roll. Not hard to spot what that one was all about. Scornful of Icons is altogether different – less roll more black.
The following track Ubiquitous Almighty immediately takes off with a head banging bounce in its step like Kreator in an unholy gangbang with Necrophobic and Insomnium. The themes continue in the next couple of tracks dragging in a few other influences as we go, along with the odd signal that this is a band having a good time along the way while never letting its foot of the required levels of ferocity.
It’s on the second half of the album that the band really starts to let its hair down. It kicks off with the back beat of Howling For You with its infectious foot tapping sound and excitable riffs should be enough to raise a smile on a few faces. The brooding and ferocious Conquerors March then levels all before it and presages in the title track where the band gleefully releases an anthemic volley that will either send chills down your spine as it descends into a ghostly Sarah Cracknell fog or leave you thinking the band has lost the plot entirely.
Scornful of Icons is a good record – solid death metal fare with peppered with black metalisms, great vocals and some excellent and entertaining soloing. The band’s sound has definitely moved on from the old dirtier production and guitar sound of the past and into new and cleaner realms. Perhaps it could be argued that something of the band’s old personality has been lost in the process. But if this is flawed, perhaps a little colourless at times as the band tries to pin down its new identity, it is also flawless in its execution with the band’s character still shining though the newly polished intensity which makes Scornful of Icons worth checking out and Phazm one to watch. Let’s hope there’s more to come.
(7.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)