Athorn: Phobia

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Athorn: Phobia
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Athorn: Phobia
Power Metal, Thrash Metal
AFM Records
September 17th, 2010
Release length: 49:59
Myspace
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Close to one year after their well accepted self-released EP Livable Hatred, Athorn find themselves signed to AFM Records for their debut full-length album, Phobia, and it comes to no real surprise. The band presents a rather unique sound that is hard to describe, but perhaps best looked at as if you took a mid-career Metallica and mixed it with some mid-career Iced Earth. There are moments throughout this release that reflect this concept well, but the band manages to put this influence together into a unique sound that has a nice edge to it, while also being rather radio friendly and approachable to many without succumbing to the generalization of a mainstream band. But, none of that really lasts too long on this release before giving out from right under the band’s own feet.

Phobia, as stated, does have a bit of a lighter, mainstream friendly sound, but not to the point where it’s generic and weak. Most radio stations today will play many Metallica singles that forged the way for many bands today, such as “Enter Sandman” and “The Unforgiven”. Well, the mainstream appeal of this release would be better suited to the latter of those two singles, as many of the songs on here are slower paced and more laid back, though Athorn does have no problems kicking things up into a much hard approach. “Phobia” stands out nicely on this release with it’s lighter musical compostition that has a fantastic haunting atmosphere to it through the first half, utilizing some fantastic clean singing and a sound that is very reminiscent of the aforementioned Iced Earth period, before going into a much harsher sound with edgier, rhaspier harmonized vocals against a more Thrash inspired Power Metal sound with some gutterals thrown in here and there through the song. Of course, the edgier sond on this song makes for some of the hardest available on this recording, as many of the songs flow at a more mid-tempo to slower pace then anything. “Angel of the Fall” even kicks off the album in a more mid-tempo pace with some more technical musical compositions then just a lighter Thrash sound, but the entire song has some real power behind it, and the chorus really gives an energetic performance in the vocals, making it very infectious, and of course the guitar solo here is very impressive, as well as rather suiting for the music being played.

While “Angel of the Fall” has some great power behind it, that power winds up feeling weak compared to some of the other tracks on here. “Humanize the Demon”, for example, is another mid-tempo song, but really does a great job at focusing on having strong music behind it that often has a rather “epic” Power Metal force behind it, giving it more of a kick then if the music to the album were behind played at a faster, or even slower pace. Of course, there’s the other end of the spectrum with “A Matter of Time”, which is more of a straight forward Power Metal song that has a much more melodic verse then anything on this release. While this track doesn’t quite share the same power as “Humanize the Demon”, it’s still a very catchy song that is well put together and features some great complexity here and there with commanding vocals, and perfectly suiting clean singing throughout.

Of course, sometimes the similarities between this band and the obvious inspirations from Iced Earth can be a bit too apparent. Vocally, certain songs can hit the lower, soothing tones of Matthew Barlow, typically with the approach off The Horror Show, to the point where you question whether he’s actually a part of the recording and had a cold, or something along those lines, at that time. Sadly, these moments are typically more forced into the song then anything, with the song typically going into a slower tempo. Of course, these are just little moments here and there that are blatently obvious. The real painful similarities come from the tracks that seem to reflect The Glorious Burden and even Something Wicked Part I with Tim “Ripper” Owens on vocal duties, such as during “The Ferryman”. There is just such a strong presence of that era Iced Earth that it’s astounding. The vocals sound mimicked, but just without hitting any higher pitches, and the music actually sounds like something that could have come straight from Something Wicked Part I. It seems that after the title track, “Phobia”, the album loses some of it’s unique appeal and actually just winds up showing some worship roots with some nice ideas here and there that degrade as it carries on until “Schizophrenia”, which shows more originality from the band then anything, though the vocals used prior to the chorus are the same as those off “After the End”, and honestly clash against the sound that this song has, as well as the atmosphere. There is also a transition utilized around one minute and fifty seconds that is simply a few acoustic guitar chords against silence. That, as well as a similar bridge around four minutes where the music suddenly stops and tries to be haunting both sound very forced and simply awkward to have, making for a very lame transition between the chorus to the main verse that doesn’t sit well at all.

Athorn‘s debut album, Phobia is a nice start for the band and shows some great talent, and plenty of listener friendly material for those who love the style, as well as those who are a little unfamiliar with it, without falling completely into a mainstream genre. Of course, there are heavier tracks here, but they simply don’t quite compare to some of the “epic” approaches to the music of this release. After the title track, everything just starts to go downhill really quick, and much of the uniue sound is washed away to awkward moments, mimickery, worship, and what seems like a lack of ideas for a full-length. Even with the closing tracks leaving a bitter taste in your mouth, there’s still enough material on here that winds up being worth checking out.

01. Angel of the Fall – 4:30
02. Emperor of Ruins – 4:40
03. Humanize the Demon – 5:34
04. Phobia – Prologue – 2:51
05. After the End – 4:37
06. A Matter of Time – 4:12
07. From Beyond – 4:53
08. The Ferryman – 5:25
09. Schizophrenia – 7:29
Overall Score: 5.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by AFM Records via Earsplit PR.