The Ringmaster Review 11/14
A raw erosion of senses and psyche, Black Country the new album from Austrian noise sculptorsPhal:Angst is a vociferously compelling provocation built upon soundscapes which suggest that the apocalypse is already upon us. Consisting of five intrusive and fierce sonic explorations themed by oppressive manipulation and bigotry, the release is a demanding and uncomfortable proposition to listen to but a welcomingly incendiary confrontation for imagination and emotions to embrace. Forging a caustic industrial, post rock and doom clad fusion of noise, the release is a haunting immersion into ravenous sounds and stark atmospheres from a provocateur bred from the same corrosive intent as a Swans or Nurse With Wound.
Phal:Angst emerged in 2006 as collaboration between the projects Phal and Projekt Angst. The years since then has seen two well-received albums, a soundtrack, and hosts of successful shows unleashed, all adding up to ensure there was certain anticipation for their third album Black Country. Recorded with Alexandr Vatagin and mastered by Patrick Pulsinger, the album is an invasive and riveting consumption which draws on thick essences of EBM and gothic rock alongside those elements of sound mentioned. It makes for an unpredictable and often voraciously abrasive encounter but one which leaves thoughts and emotions aflame and contemplating the incitement unleashed.
Hardwire is the first examination of the senses, a fifteen minute portrait of a world in turmoil and emotionally twisted. From a glorious opening female vocal caress soon wrapped in similarly elegant keys, the track slips into a heavy industrial climate. Beats and electronic designs aligned to war inspired samples emerge within the still warm melodic embrace of the song, the encroaching portentous invasion of the beauty slow and unrelenting as guitars begin their rawer sonic narrative. The track continues to smoulder between melodic grace and caustic hostility whilst melancholic breezes wash the climate of the song and the band’s vocals upon their subsequent appearance. It is a gripping track, a corruption of sound which smothers the beauty within itself in order to provoke and spark ears and thoughts.
The album’s title track is next where again a warm and gentle entrance is made. This time electronic seduction coaxes the senses though around them sonic shadows are swiftly brewing up their intent and menace. They are held at bay though as a funereal rhythmic strides court the radiant and haunted shimmer of synths and guitar. Monotone fuelled vocals add their colour to the emerging song next, though again it is a slow expansion prowled by other continually darkening tones. The repetitious nature within this and all tracks is an inescapable seducing which only adds to the persuasion if not always the accessibility of the song’s temptation. This and its successor The Old Has To Die and the New Must Not Be Born reminds of Young Gods across their maudlin soaked landscapes, the album’s third song especially sparking thoughts of the Swiss band as opening hoarse vocals and intimidating riffs sets the tone and character of the blackened suffocation of the senses to come. Again that repetitive essence and the return of those breath-taking female soaring vocals provide a rich temper to the bestial heart of the track.
It is an enthralling and bewitchingly unpredictable trespass of the emotions providing the album with its pinnacle though that is almost matched by the warped sonic flirtation of Black Milk of Morning. A track which takes its time worming under the skin, despite persistently offering slim and potent melodies across chilled rhythmic scenery soaked in abrasing sonic ambience, it almost sneaks up on the passions especially with the persistence of unpolished reiterative vocals which imprint their presence and pressure within the climactic sonic smog. There is a beauty to the open and merciless aural causticity of the song which will certainly not be for all but as the album, will provide a remarkably rewarding experience for many more.
Black Country closes with the industrial drama and dystopian presence of Theta, a track which feels like an infestation bred from the union of Kraftwerk, Einstürzende Neubauten, and Neurosis. It crawls across the senses, leaving doom bred bait in its wake whilst igniting the imagination with its creative smothering and fiery tenacity. The song is a fine end to a great album, one which at times you wonder what specifically you are enjoying about it but always by the end of its persuasion only want more.