Phal:Angst hail from Austria so it's a safe assumption that the titular reference in this, their third album, is not one of England's West Midlands area. Oh no, we're not dealing with a bunch of Brummies here; and this Vienna-based quartet have delivered a rather aurally infectious blend of disparate elements that takes a post-rock foundation and adds all kind of disparate elements in their nicely composed instrumentations. Aside from the likes of harp, xylophone and Kaoss-Pad, they've injected their darkly menacing post-rock meanderings with a perfectly balanced dose of industrial/EBM electronica. And it's great. It works a treat. At least, instrumentally, that is. While there's an effective use of sampled voices in their canvas (bursts of quasi-narration, if you will), the clean vocals that first appear on opener 'Hardwire' are irredeemably dreary - and dreary in a sense that is not befitting of the music's dark undertones. Quite the opposite, the clean 'singing' is actually a distraction and only serves to mar the neat atmospheres Phal:Angst have managed to create at the point the vocals kick in. There's more of the same of the title track and then there's 'The Old Has to Die and the New Must Not Be Born' which fares no better with its ever so amateurish, throat-clearing growls. Seriously, this sounds like a guy who's trying to hack up the contents of a cold-ridden throat before actually recording a vocal take. I'm not kidding. The vocals hit an all-time low on fourth track 'Black Milk of Morning', where we are presented with not only dreariness but some seriously misplaced dissonance. Ughhh! Not nice. It's not over yet, though, as Phal:Angst have saved the best to last. Oh yes, 'Theta' has it all - throat clearing, dissonance and dreariness in equal measure. It's such a shame. As such, 'Black Country' is a frustrating album as it promises so much but the overall effect is tarnished by a plethora of vocal discordance.
Review by Mark Holmes
14th Nov 2014
2) Black Country
3) The Old Has to Die and the New Must Not Be Born
4) Black Milk of Morning
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...'Black Country' is a frustrating album as it promises so much but the overall effect is tarnished by a plethora of vocal discordance."