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Fragments Of Flagrancy

Unundeux (2014)
Rating: 6/10

Contemporary technical death metal just doesn’t seem to be my bag of late. The latest bunch of metallers with a fetish for the complex side of extreme metal is Germany’s Phobiatic with their sophomore album Fragments Of Flagrancy. I wasn’t that impressed by 2012 debut An Act Of Atrocity either, in spite of its intricate meanderings and jarring techniques.

This newbie follows on from where the debut left off in that it’s a rather jarring experience built upon fast-paced segments which are interrupted by squirming, spasmodic solos and thrashy intervals of jazzy intervention.

Sure, it’s all very clever and fronted by the chesty barks of one Sebastian Meisen who is of the Glen Benton (Deicide) ilk when it comes to his frothing, but as each track of the ten writhes and fidgets, I’m not alienated but instead rather exhausted by the intricate prowess of the quartet. I’ve probably played songs such as ‘Abnormal Dilation’ 30 or so times, and still it has the same effect; little!

At least with ‘Downward Spiral’ there is that unrelenting pace, while at the other end of the spectrum the combo slows things down for the meaty ‘House In Cleveland’, which at first begins like an old-fashioned thrash speed-fest before lowering itself into a lumbering chug. The constant interruptions from the squiggling solos actually makes it rather predictable fair, however. At least the five minute ‘House In Cleveland’ is long enough to savour, as most of the other tracks are over before three minutes.

I can’t deny the eye for technicality with contemporary death metal bands. If you hear a track such as ‘A Genius Of Manipulation’ or ‘Metropolis (Of The Dead)’ where guitarist Robert Nowack comes to the fore, then I’m sure you’ll find something to savour within the complex framework this band has constructed in order to bedazzle, and yet when kept a little simpler, as with the aforementioned ‘House In Cleveland’, the band seems to become a formidable and more imposing force.

In fact, the subtlety displayed complements Meisen’s in a more beneficial manner, otherwise his vocal growl seems to play second string to those fidgety seizures. As a more solid and slightly more compromising combo, Phobiatic has a hint of Suffocation about its barrage, and when the mood leans towards a thrashier aspect I’m reminded of brutal Brazilian outfit Krisiun. For me the highs are all too infrequent though, even if as separate entities the members shine – especially bassist Michael Stifft, who may have spent too much time listening to Cannibal Corpse! The other aspect which I’m not entirely sure about is the higher vocal expressions of Meisen who is able to slot in amongst the jarring passages, but I’m just not a fan of a double attack within this style.

So, in a sense this record is one that is a tad fragmented; in one instant offering some raging old school-styled death metal, the next veering off into a complex yet contemporary territory that doesn’t always sit comfortably. I’m sure a majority of death metal fanatics will submit to this punishment, nevertheless.

Neil Arnold

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