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Phenocryst – Explosions

by Oli Gonzalez at 06 February 2022, 4:32 AM

Google the word ‘phenocryst’ and you’ll find the following definition; ‘a large or conspicuous crystal in a porphyritic rock, distinct from the groundmass’. However, this isn’t a geology lesson. Instead, this is the review for the debut EP for Portuguese death metal act PHENOCRYST. Sometimes, us music aficionados have to wade through a lot of roughs and dirt before finding the proverbial diamond band that blows you away. I’m wondering if I’ll stumble upon my own diamond here?

Things open up with “Fumarole Emanations”. That opening riff was designed to instill fear and discomfort into the listener before proceeding into a neck snapping sludge-fest of a groove. All this before the band decide to switch things up with a merciless assault on your ear drums in the form of blisteringly fast blast beats! No glitz or glamour, just straight up speed and brutality. It seems like the band are intent on pounding you into submission by effortlessly switching between their plan of attack. The very same thing can be said for “Phreatic Explosions”. I can hear black metal inspired tremolo picking and dissonant chord progressions, demonstrating versatility in their sound. Whereas the guitars have been dark and gritty up until now.

Pyroclastic Flows” opens with a much brighter guitar passage, which is aesthetic and offers a pleasant contrast. I haven’t mentioned the vocals at this point. Whilst I would prefer them to be higher in the mix, they have reminded consistently heavy and ferocious up until now! Especially at the end of this song, with some gnarly gutturals. I found myself drawn to the drums in “Craters”. The opening galloping pattern is infectious, hypnotic, bludgeoning my ear drums as the most salient feature in this song. I love how the band revert to what seems to be their winning formula and switching between these faster passages with the galloping, and then to much slower sections. It keeps things interesting for sure. I

was honestly a bit sad knowing that “Igneous Fluids” was going to be the last song. The slow deliberate guitar arpeggio played over a low droning backing track does create an interesting cinematic effect. I was waiting for the death metal assault from the rest of the band to arrive. Sadly, it didn’t. In all honesty, this song feels out of place. It would have been much better as an opening track or as part of an intro for another song. Otherwise, it just seems like filler at this point. A fairly weak ending.

Overall, this album encapsulates many of the features we’ve come to love about extreme metal. It’s a short sharp blast and window into what the band are capable of. Because they really do have potential! The album is perhaps too short to really demonstrate their full array of talent. For this reason, I’d say that they’re a rough jewel that needs to be polished and nurtured at this stage, but I’m sure they will be gleaming brightly in no time!

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

1. Fumarole Emanations
2. Phreatic Explosions
3. Pyroclastic Flows
4. Craters
5. Igneus Fluids
D.S. - Guitars/Vocals
N. - Guitars/Vocals
V. M. - Bass
P. Tosher - Drums
Record Label: Blood Harvest Records


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Edited 09 February 2023

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