October 16, 2008 | | 3.5

Phazm, Cornerstone Of The Macabre

I’m not entirely sure what to make of France’s Phazm and their sludgy take on death-and-roll. Throughout this disc you’ll find crushing death metal blasts, sludgy riffs, spacey solos and elements of southern rock — swirling around in the brown, cloudy bowels of the dirtiest bong you can get your hands on. The result is an eclectic sound sure to polarize metal fan-dom. Some folks are going to love, others will loathe it.

Either way, you have to respect the balls it takes to throw a little slide guitar into a churning mix of sludge and death metal, all the while pushing the limits of metal experimentation to its outer limits. Phazm use a variety of styles and influences in Cornerstone of the Macabre, shifting a bit from their more death oriented sound of previous releases. Now, you’ll find soulful hooks, rock influenced leads, manic thrash rhythms, off kilter time shifts and galloping riffs. Hell, there’s even a Metallica cover.

Love Me Rotten (Love me True)
Phazm open up with some large, groove oriented riffing and heavy drum work. The start to this one is pretty damned catchy. Gruff layered vocals come in with thick rhythms about 30 seconds in. Man, there’s a whole lot of rock and sludge in this one, even as the pace picks up a bit after the one minute mark. The vocals around 1:40 are slower, softer, but have a nice gruff feel to them. The track ends with a minute plus of light guitar work.

The Worm On The Hook
“The Worm On The Hook” picks the pace back up immediately with huge drums and thick riffs. Heavy bass comes in with the gruff vocals. The pace is initially slower on this one, but does pick up around 1:20 with some catchy hooks and layered vocals. There’s a slick lead just after the two minute mark that’s got a nice edge it while sludgy guitars rumble in the background. The groove to the riffing after that lead are goddamned infectious.

Light drum tapping and thick, crunchy base greet you at the onset of this next track, as the group settles into some nice head banging groove. This one’s got a dark, foreboding feel to it for the most part. The end to this one is pretty damned ferocious, complete with blasting drums and caustic riffs.

Strange Song
The start to “Strange Song” isn’t so strange, but it definitely slows the momentum a great deal with slide guitar and light drum work. It sort of reminds me of some of the instrumental stuff that Max Cavalera has done with Soulfly. The instrumental lasts a bit of three minutes.

Welcome to My Funeral
After that brief reprieve from the bong smoke, “Welcome to My Funeral” takes you in a completely different direction with massive, doom filled riffs and a monolithic pace. The vocals are gruff, slow and have a despondent tinge to them that’s dark. There’s a good amount of harmonica thrown into this one that only adds to the gloom, oddly enough.

The Old Smell of the Meat
The opening guitar and running rhythm kick some serious ass as this one gets going. The vocals are a little raspier to begin with, but still have a great edge to them. There’s a little Entombed in this song as well. Violent drums precede a sick solo at 1:25 that’s got a heavy dose of rock thrown into it for good measure. “The Old Smell of the Meat” is one catchy track, man.

Mucho Mojo
Slow slide guitar starts off “Mucho Mojo” giving way to a light vocal presence and a chill rhythm. This one feels as though it should be in the soundtrack for some Quentin Tarantino movie. It has a great sound, catchy chorus and is a standout track on the album for its uniqueness.

The End
“The End” certainly isn’t the end of this disc but more a beginning of something new for the band on this album. Crushing drum blasts and driving riffs fade in with a healthy growl then quickly settles into some chugging rhythms 40 second in — punctuated nicely here and there with massive drum blasts. Thick bass thunders throughout the song as Phazm tear through it with a vengeance. There’s another slick lead at 2:20.

Monolithic and raw guitars start this next track with a steady beat from the drums. This one is dark and desolate, backed by the thundering hooves of Hell’s minions. “Necrophiliac” is a chugging monster of a track with distorted guitars and heaven shaking rhythms. The track ends calmly with some cymbol wash.

Damage, Inc.
Metallica has a very large library from which to pull a track to cover. Why Phazm decided on “Damage, Inc” is beyond me, but they did so here we go. The track starts slowly with distant guitars for about 1:20 before the song actually kicks on. Yup. It’s a Metallica cover that sounds a bit more ramped up and aggressive. The song actually sounds better than the original. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m digging it.

The final song comes in slowly with thick, distorted reverb and noise before a thick and heavy groove comes in with beefy guitars and rhythms. This is a pretty catchy track that will have you head banging long after the disc has run its course.

~ ~ ~

I had debated on reviewing this album, but I’m ultimately thankful that I did. Phazm’s take on death-and-roll is a bit to the left of your standard attempt. Cornerstone of the Macabre is a hell of a disc and hellified fun to rock out to in your car on the way home from a long day at the office.

Favorite Tracks:
All of them

Additional Notes: