(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Phantom Winter, which will be released on March 2nd by Golden Antenna Records.)
Metal is, as we all know, a genre intimately acquainted with darkness in all (or at least most of) its forms.
For some bands their music is an attempt to express and expel the darkness within them in an explosion of convulsive catharsis. For others it’s a chance to celebrate and even indulge in their darkest impulses and desires. And then there are those who use their talents to explore the darkness of the world which surrounds them in all its ugliness and horror.
For German quintet Phantom Winter, however. the question appears to be less about which of these approaches they wish to take, and more about which one they wish to take first.
Brimming with bile and grimmer than the reaper, the six tracks of filthy Blackened Sludge which make up Into Dark Science deliver an ugly, uncompromising blend of nasty grooves, abrasive riffs, and noxious, choking atmosphere, all topped off with a multi-throated vocal approach which frequently teeters on the very edge of lunacy, in an unfiltered and unapologetic display of all too human darkness.
Every part of the music… every gnarled, corrupted note, every twisted, contagious melody, every rhythmic, gut-wrenching convulsion… seems designed to sink in through your ears, to slither its way under your skin, and nestle itself deep within the folds of your brain, from where it can begin to multiply and spread.
And while the album overall may be less instantly infectious than its predecessor (the brutish, hypnotic “Frostcoven” notwithstanding), the material found here is still just as sickeningly virulent and disgustingly visceral in its own right, to the point where it feels like I’m constantly running a low-grade fever while listening to it.
Even the record’s softer moments, brief though they may be, act as vectors through which only the most depraved ideas and diseased archetypes can be transmitted into your mind, so that the insidious ambience which permeates so much of the album – from the anxiety-inducing strains of “Ripping Halos from Angels”, to the ominous “The Craft and the Power of Black Magic Wielding” and the crushing “Into Dark Science” – merely serves to heighten the harsh, oppressive nature of the music.
Concluding with the sinister sounds of “Godspeed! Voyager” – a veritable monument to faded beauty and decaying ideals if ever I’ve heard one – I can honestly say, without a shadow of a doubt, that Into Dark Science is destined to be one of the darkest, most harrowing musical experiences of the year.
And for that it should be celebrated. Or castigated. Or possibly both.