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Ipecac (2012)
Rating: 6.5/10

Philm is the project from drummer Dave Lombardo (Slayer). It’s a power trio of sorts that also features bassist Pancho Tomaselli (a long-time member of funk rockers War) and singer / guitarist Gerry Nestler (Civil Defiance). Given the membership and the fact that this is billed as a progressive power trio, I sort of expected a jazz inclination here (perhaps because I am an avid Alex Skolnick Trio fan?), but instead we get a hard-edged, quirky, semi-melodic fluid album. While many out there tend to see this as a million miles from what Lombardo does in Slayer, there is a certain rawness to Harmonic that won’t be hard for more open-minded Slayer fans to latch on to.

Harmonic is much like a triangle with three musical sides. The first is the raw, edgy, dark, but definitely metal side. This side is best exhibited by songs like ‘Hun’, ‘Sex Amp’, ‘Mild’ and ‘Held In Light’. They feature scratchy lead guitars, spit-filled vocals and crazy underlying bass and drum rhythms that never seem to slow down. I was very surprised that Philm would remind me of anyone musically, but Rollins Band’s 90s work and, to a lesser extent, Precious Death and Blackball’s debut album immediately come to mind. It’s quite likely due to the funkiness beneath the heaviness and the “no range but completely killer” vocal work.

The next side of the triangle is the soul-baring angst of songs like album opener ‘Vitriolize’, the garage-led noise of ‘Dome’, the back and forth of ‘Meditation’, and the fascinating ‘Amoniac’. It’s this side that brings out the band’s experimental element and its desire to be mentioned in the same sentence as MC5 and The Melvins.

The final side to the beast is the quieter moments. To be honest, I expected to hear an album full of these types of tracks, so props to the band for taking everyone by storm. The title track, the fuzzy and off-the-cuff ‘Killion’, and the breathtaking guitar work of ‘Mezzanine’ all create a texture and atmosphere here that is the farthest from what Lombardo himself is known for, but is not particularly surprising given the histories of the other members.

All in all, Philm’s Harmonic was very different from what I was expecting to hear. It’s heavier than you’d expect from the press talk and has an awful lot in common with the outer fringe bands of the late 90s and early new millennium. This makes it a perfect fit for the Ipecac roster since it’s made up entirely of bands that do what they want, when they want, and do it how they want to do it.

Lombardo and company have made a pretty interesting album here that gets better on repeated listens. On the first listen I found myself saying “What the hell is going on?”, but as I settled into the album over the next four or five spins, it definitely grew on me to the point where I’m wondering if my above average rating might go even higher if I listened for another week?

Mark Fisher

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