As music genres go, grindcore has to be one of the most primal, cathartic forms of self expression on our miserable planet. What’s not to love about frenzied 90-second blasts of raging guitars, lightning-quick drumming and a sweaty bloke screaming himself hoarse over the top? It’s a sobering thought that this bastard cousin of thrash metal has existed for near 30 years and shows no sign of calming down, despite the elder statesmen of the genre being closer to claiming a bus pass then being down with the kids.
Orange County 5-piece Phobia is one such act that refuses to grow old gracefully and thank fuck for that. Spitting bile in the system’s face since their inception in 1990, these noisy stalwarts have just released their sixth full length “Remnants of Filth” which grinds harder than a hungry stripper and is twice as ugly. Those looking for anything other than crust-flecked, breakneck fury will be sorely disappointed as Phobia aren’t in this game to make friends, impress some major label hotshot or to try and crack the lucrative teen market. They sound like they’d sooner stab you in the eye with a sharpened biro than compromise on their primitive yet utterly engaging racket.
The double-whammy opening salvo of ‘Assertion to Demean’ and ‘Contradiction’ firmly establish the theme as business as usual, packing more punch into their combined two minutes and 37 seconds than most of what passes for modern metal these days can produce in forty five. ‘Submission Hold’ may not be about wrestling but is heavier than Andre the Giant giving Anne Widdecombe a piggyback, with vocalist Shane Mclachlan alternating between feral bellows and strangled shrieks as the relentless blasts threaten to cave your speakers in.
‘Got the Fear’ contains a 10 second sample, (gasp) slow part, then a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it deathgrind finale all within 30 seconds. The tedious assertion that grindcore bands never play with the formula is further exposed to ridicule with the nods to So-Cal hardcore that pop up in ‘Infraction of Pride’ and the swaggering D-Beat of ‘Deaden to Believe’ which even features an improvised sounding guitar solo.
Death metal rears its ugly head in ‘No Sympathy for the Weak’, coming across like a more mature Circle of Dead Children, Phobia’s former touring buddies. ‘Atrocious Atrocity’ sounds as fresh as anything you’ll hear on a Magrudergrind record and penultimate track ‘Resuscitate’ is propelled by a driving melody before the savage Rotten Sound-alike fury of ‘Inaction’ closes things in succinct style.
Phobia albums never outstay their welcome and the mere 20 minutes on offer here are the perfect addition to their stout discography. These veteran bruisers are more likely to use a wheel as a weapon than re-invent it and that’s why their short sharp shocks are all the more welcome in a world where bullshit experimentation all too often gets passed off as genuine invention.