“Modern civilization breeds despair and inhumanity – or so the theory goes. The cruelty and dystopic living circumstances of postmodern or hypermodern megacities and the supercomplexity of the globalistic society has been the breeding ground for very interesting artistic and especially musical works for over three decades now. I think of the manipulated noise of industrial music, the coldness of new wave and the fusion of both in a shortlived style called EBM. In the punk and hardcore underground a special breed of slow and burning music has evolved, which found its first culmination in an album named “Souls at Zero” by Neurosis, this also over ten years down the road now and still the benchmark all others are measured up against.
Phal:Angst are from Vienna and do a good job in putting the nightmarish dystopia of modern city life into music. Long winding and slowly evolving evil harmonics, lyrics about death and murder, all wrapped in a very dark and depressive arrangement. Though I am not at all sure if the theory stated at the beginning of this review is still valid, especially in times where an ecomonic crisis strikes through all kinds of business and the people don’t feel a thing of it in their basic every day lives, the artistic occupation with this society of nightmares is still interesting and fascinating to me. From “The Road” to Cormac McCarthy to “Children of Men” to “Human Animals” by Wolf Eyes, the question of what happens if (the world is robbed of food, no more babies are born, people have to endure surveillance 24/7, a party accrues absolute power, motorized vehicles start to act intelligent,…) has a special appeal to me.
Phal:Angst don’t do anything very special or new – except maybe for employing a harmonica(!) on “All Autumn’s past” – but on the other hand the don’t have to. They draw out their tracks quite long, which is why there are only four of them on here, and some of them burn slowly but steadily without critical moments, while other work up like a volcanoe that is close to to explode in your face with thunderous power, but doesn’t. Living on the edge of apocalypse There is a lot of echo and dark arrangements and electronics and a drum computer keeping the time. It is the same kind of brooding darkness that Fields of The Nephilim used to spread two decades back, only with less electronica and more synthetic fog. Maybe it would be better to judge this record against the first album by Sisters of Mercy?
In modern society it is always a good tactic to start with a hypothesis of the worst always happening. With high probability the worst has already happened and what you are experiencing is just the outcome of it. A little piano at the beginning of the fourth track, aptly titled “Despair”, brings over the point quite well. Why should the aftermath of a crisis not be a gentle affair? Or at least start gentle, if it then goes on with a suicide note or description and the first words you hear are “Happy Day / loneliness / grief and anger / and despair” over and over again. Whatever it is that is at the core of Phal:Angst’s fascination with the desperate sides of life, they sure do it with consequence.
The music on the CD is rounded up with a remix by the famous industrial noise revolutionists Neon Squid Autopsy and a movie. Be sure to have forsaken good times for the length of this album before you put it on. If you are a happy go lucky kind of guy, this won’t be the right thing for you. If you like to brood over the evils of life, then you are welcome to the world of Phal:Angst.”