Phobetor are one of the most promising death metal bands in the English underground after last year’s When Life Falls Silent ripped through the scene. It sailed into the SBR Top 7 Debut Albums of 2020 and surged through the speakers like an iron flail in search of a human head. Now they’re back with a new guitarist and bass player, and the founding duo of Marc Dyos and Debora Conserva are ready to launch the next series of their blackened-death metal assault. This is an audio onslaught you must not resist.
Like its predecessor, Through Deepest Fears and Darkest Minds is a colossal piece of bone-crunching metal laced in Debora Conserva’s dark dream world of inner terror. You might think you’ve selected a Paradise Lost record when you hear the brooding piano notes of ‘Solace in Darkness’, but the band are preparing you for the trepid experience ahead. If the aim is to wrongfoot the listener’s expectations, it works. Ross White’s bludgeoning guitar tone races through the fret slides like Bolt Thrower in their prime and provides the adrenaline intensity needed to keep up with Conserva’s manic guttural shifts. The stomp of drum and bass is more violent than the whirlwind might of a Haitian tornado.
‘Beneath Black Waters’ and ‘Screaming Silence’ are just as relentless. Here, Phobetor take the best of British – mid-career Carcass, early Paradise Lost, and even the vicious bite of Akercocke – and feed it through the meter of Dyos’ phenomenal double-bass footwork. The death-doom melancholy of the former will invite many repeat listens, just as the rapid-fire riffing of the latter conjures images of a modern death metal band updating Megadeth’s ‘Take No Prisoners’ in a lower tuning. Phobetor understand that death metal has no need to engage in a dick-swinging contest of virtuosic masturbation. Ross White seldom executes more than five riffs per song and Dyos adds blast beats sparingly. Fans of the latest offering from Blood Red Throne will appreciate this approach. Listen to the crispy distortion of ‘One Last Breath’ – this is how you utilise the harmonic minor scales and pivot the drums to a position of enhanced brutality.
Mitch Revy’s departure from the band before the writing of this record could have demoralised the Dyos-Conserva duumvirate, but Ross White’s performance on the six-strings is monumental. Likewise, Conserva’s vocals are harsher and more malevolent on this album. The way they use the sliding fifth chords to accent her vocal lines in the chorus of ‘Your Empty Shadow’ will transport you back to the glory days of the Florida scene, but Phobetor are too good to play the nostalgia card. Behemoth are a big influence here. You might even discern the hand of modern-day Whitechapel in the syncopated force of ‘Within Death’s Embrace’.
With riffs and rhythms as devastating as these, Phobetor are clear in their purpose. They want to subjugate the listener to the might of their vocalist’s darkest visions. It’s incomprehensible that Debora Conserva recorded her vocals for this record in an advanced stage of pregnancy. Her diabolical aggression will leave you with a bloody nose, yet you could be listening to Death’s Symbolic album if you close your eyes at the beginning of ‘Coerced Infestation’. The chromatic groove patterns and tremolo rhythms of ‘A Silent Nihility’ are just as enchanting.
You don’t need a palette cleanser here. Perhaps this is the greatest triumph of Through Deepest Fears and Darkest Minds – you can listen to ten of these relentless hammer-blows with no hint of monotony or stagnation. It’s clear we have a late contender for the death metal album of the year.
Release Date: 13/12/2021
Record Label: Black Jasper Records
Standout tracks: Beneath Black Waters, Screaming Silence, Coerced Infestation
Suggested Further Listening: Blood Red Throne – Imperial Congregation (2021), Paradise Lost – Gothic (1991), Death – Symbolic (1995)