|Avant-Garde, Doom Metal, Progressive Stoner Metal
March 17th, 2015
Release length: 43:20
Flummox: To perplex, to bewilder, to ultimately confuse the senses. This is something that desperately needs to be kept in mind while traversing the vast eccentricities that make up Phlummoxygen. While many may still refer to the group as a Technical Doom Metal band, this outing, at the very least, sends the listener spiralling into a mixture of Avant-Garde/Experimental Progressive Sludge/Stoner Metal and Rock the likes you both have heard, yet haven’t heard before. Traces of everything from Confessor to The White Stripes, Pantera and back can all be found trough this nearly incomprehensible at first recording of often pure zaniness that either makes sense or doesn’t.
“Flummoxing Act 1/Garbonzo’s Leap” starts things off fairly normal by sticking to that aforementioned technical aspect the band has been known to produce, allowing the loud twang of the bass guitar to really shine through. It doesn’t take long for the song to slow down, allowing the that instrument to take center stage in what comes off like oompah music with some off-key singing. The latter only becomes exaggerated as the music takes on a more thematic role, though still complex in the lead riffs and drumming, not to mention a very well executed bass solo approach four-and-a-half minutes in, which acts as a spring board into far more eccentric and even sinister material. This leads to a brief studio recording of a band members learning which button to press to record, kicking off “Didja Know?” and it’s pure randomness that starts off in a Spaghetti Western fashion similar to Big Dumb Face‘s “Duke Lion”, coughing, choking effects, random noises and instruments, and what sounds like one of the band members either mid intercourse or masturbating in a highly vocal manner. You know, art school film project style, the kind that make absolutely no sense to anyone but that specific hipster click, or at the very least like any video on the Youtube channel How To Basic. Of course, this happens again for “¿Didja Espanol?”, though not as odd and without the awkward moans.
While a good amount of this release can be categorized as madness, there are a few that stay fairly consistent overall. “Planet Cancer” actually presents itself as more of a technical groove-based Thrash Metal track, as if Annihilator and Testament had teamed up to record an album, thoroughly absent of the bass. It’s like listening to a demo tape from the eighties thanks to the raw quality, creating a gap in the music that you can’t help but wish was filled. “The Whispering Banshees” has a tinge of Southern influence to the Pantera-esque Sludge filled hooks as well, weaving a truly infectious performance all around. But then there’s “Custodian Ralph”, which starts off a Funk offering with deep bass distortions that eventually cut to a mix of what sounds like Ska and Adult Contemporary. Both of those styles stick out very strong to present a little authority as well, as though the world should be moving fast enough to be a blur whilst I walk towards a non-existent camera in super slow motion, for lack of a better term, like a boss.
Finally there’s “Ancestors/Earth Removal”, which is the most straight-forward, if not also exhaustive cut of the release. This just under ten minute slab incorporates a lot of the signature elements of the band, as well as the Doom Metal style, all the while containing nods to the burdening atmospheres and hooks of Cathedral with Confessor grade technicality. These elements all work to blossom into something not quite melancholic, but forlorn in more of an epic tribute or even a viking funeral, all while the higher vocal approach and harsher falsettos introduce an awkward contrast that works better when the material switches over to a blend of Hardcore grooves as the approaching Black Sabbath-laden psychedelic riffs gradually take over and even add an astral hint one could associate with the grandious imagary on display in the Heavy Metal films and print series. Things return to normal once more by the seven minute point though, allowing the loud twang of the bass guitar to come through and play more of a vital role than it did in the first half.
To say that Flummox keep you on your toes throughout the recording is definitely an understatement. Just as you start to settle in and get comfy, you get a different approach that sticks to the group’s core sound to shake things up and make damn sure that you’re paying attention. When it comes to bands living up to their name, Flummox perhaps does it too well. Phlummoxygen is one of those albums that is incredibly hard to describe to someone and make them fully understand, let alone appreciate, what it’s about. And, much like Suspended Animation by Fantomas (or anything by that band really), it ends up an experience that will make you ask “What the fuck did I just listen to?” the moment it ends, a statement I even made my first time through. Of course, this makes for a recording that definitely won’t sit well with the every day Metal fan.
Phlummoxygen is something you need to invest time in, tackle with an open mind, and approach things like the highly echoed pieces and screams at the end of “Flummoxing Act 2” with a great curiosity as to how they all fit into the mix. Sometimes it feels like they simply don’t and are nothing more than an art house expression, or at the very least some streaming video in the line of “Youtube Poop”. But, overall, Phlummoxygen is still a wild ride that treads off the beaten path a bit too far, gets beat up by wild grizzly bears, meets the Slender Man, and comes back alive to tell the tale, only to be obedient to song structure for a brief time before deciding to hell with all that and running back into the woods naked on a major sugar rush which, admittedly, isn’t always a pleasant sight…
01. Flummoxing Act 1/Garbonzo’s Leap – 6:24
02. Didja Know? – 1:53
03. Custodian Ralph – 5:41
04. Ancestors Earth Removal – 9:59
05. Planet Cancer – 2:56
06. ¿Didja Espanol? – 1:17
07. The Whispering Banshees – 8:55
08. Flummoxing Act 2 – 6:16
|Initial Pressing Score: 8/10