Phazm

Antebellum Death 'n' Roll

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Hmmmm. The last time we heard from Nancy, France's Phazm, on their 2004 debut, Hate at First Seed, they were contemplating humanity's extinction at the hands (or branches, as it were) of vengeful vegetation and murderous mulch -- an odd, but certainly original apocalyptic scenario with which to augment their competent mix of death and black metal. However, the group would radically alter their approach on their 2006 sophomore effort, Antebellum Death 'n Roll, which found them mixing up pre-existing extreme metal tendencies with more traditional, blues-based rock & roll songwriting tactics. While this certainly made some sort of sense in conjunction with the group's newly adopted conceptual detour into Cajun-flavored zombie-voodoo tales, needless to say it represented quite a risky move for a young band still trying to establish its audience. Even so, Phazm showed the same plucky confidence and inspired creative handiwork as they had on their first effort when it came to second album standouts, like the speed-thrashing "The Bright," the atmospheric death/doom track "Burarum," and the harmonica-introduced "How to Become a God," which, because of Pierrick Valence's robotic tone and French accent, elicited pleasant memories of Canadian avant-space thrashers Voivod. Speaking of harmonicas, they were brought out again, along with acoustic guitars and maybe even a banjo, for the surprising interludes "Sabbath" and "Lorelindorean," which book-ended what was arguably the album's best realized song in "Mr. Toodling." Unfortunately, in additional numbers like "Hunger" and "Decay," Phazm merely managed to sound like a poor man's Entombed and Witchery, respectively; and, likewise, neither "Black 'n' Roll," nor the turgid "So White, So Blue, So Cold" ever got a convincing head of steam, while the wacky voodoo ambience of "Damballah" was as compelling as it was confusing. In the end, it all made for some wildly mixed results in terms of both creative and quality standards, and an album that polarized critics and fans alike. [Antebellum Death 'n Roll was released on dual-disc format which paired the regular CD side with a DVD program containing a hometown concert from July 14, 2006.]

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