You know when an album kind of sneaks up on you, well that’s pretty much what happened with this one. The death of my iPod while on a trip to Germany recently left me bereft of my usual selection of in-car entertainment. Instead all I had (once I had breathed new life into the iPod) were three or four albums I had downloaded to my work laptop. Luckily one of those was Harmonic, the new release from Philm. Now at this point I knew nothing about the album apart from how it sounded, personnel, backstory, label were all still a mystery.
Well, I can say if you only have one album to listen to while racking up 1000 Autobahn miles, then by Christ this is the one to go for. (And 1000 Autobahn miles may sound like fun, but maybe not in a Diesel Peugeot 206 ;-)).
Anyway, I’m gibbering, let’s get on with it….
Harmonic opens with the Vitriolize, a thrashing, crashing monster of a track. Now I know at some point in this review I’m going to use the word eclectic (and very probably the word progressive too) so let’s get the former out of the way right here. By the time you are half way through the opening track it’s clear that Philm are walking the line between eclectic genius, and out and out batshit mentalness.
And it’s a very fine line.
Maybe to understand this it helps to know who the personnel in the band are. Well, drum duties are handled by Thrash Metal god Dave Lombardo, while the vocal and guitars are handled by prog-Metallists Civil Defiance’s Gary Nestler. And it’s these different-but-still-metal approaches that combine to give the whole thing it’s unusual edge.
No two tracks on Harmonic are the same, it’s almost as if the band drew words out of a hat and then tried to construct music that fitted those words, the vitriolic Vitriolize, the exuberant, erm, Exuberance and the trippy, dare I say it almost new-age, Way Down. Hell, there’s even something that can only be described as Prodigy-esque woven through the track Mild that you’d never in a million years expect to work, but it just does.
Freed from the confines of their day jobs, Dave, Gary and bassist Pancho Tomaselli are clearly having a ball exploring the more eclectic (thought I’d use it again) extremes of the musical landscape. In places it’s restrained and quite beautiful (Harmonic, the title track), the musicians holding back to weave a haunting musical soundscape, while in others it’s a self indulgent noodly guitar fest where everyone is going absolutely flat out, and everything including the proverbial kitchen sink is thrown into the mix.
Harmonic is an album that I have really grown to love, and after repeated listens it just keeps on getting better and better. OK, so the different extremes of style on here may just be too far apart for some, for others (including me) it’s the amazing variety of the musical fare on offer that makes this so special.
Although, they do take liberties with the “pick a word then write a song round it” theory, Meditition being an interpretation of a Charles Baudelaire poem which they set to a soundtrack that alternates between quiet background instrumentation and spoken word….. and proper old-school Thrash Metal.
Yep, it’s all a bit mental.
Progressive, inventive and imaginative metal doesn’t get much better than this.