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Phi - 2011 - "For the Love of Ghosts"

(49:12, ‘Phi’/MALS Records)


1.  The Surgical Cut-2-3-4 9:51
2.  Departure 4:41
3.  DesIre 12:08
4.  Wintersong 5:23
5.  The Illusion 6:19
6.  The Surgical Cut-1 9:04
7.  For the Love of Ghosts 1:46 


Markus Bratus – vocals, guitars, keyboards
Arthur Darnhofer-Demar – bass, vocals
Nick Koch – drums, programming
Christoph Pirker – keyboards, organ
Markus Czwiertnia – violin 
Peter Yearsley – voice  

Prolusion. The Austrian band PHI was formed back in 2006, and in their formative years they became a relatively popular outfit. That initial phase ended in 2009 however, and after a break, incorporating a new musical philosophy with members to boot, the second version of the band hit the studio in 2011 to record their debut album. "For the Love of Ghosts" was the chosen name for this production.

Analysis. Sometimes it's interesting to ponder upon a band's self description. In the case of Phi, they describe themselves as an outfit performing new art rock. A description that does give some automatic association towards the popular bands of the 70's, the use of the word “new” making it plausible that they explore a modernized version of the multiple expressions covered by this description. But the actual music is of a rather different character. If I should name one artist I presume this band is well familiar with, it would be Porcupine Tree. Not because of any stylistic similarities as such, although the band does come close to that sound in some instances, but due to the compositional and structural approach. Phi is a band skilled at building up tension and intensity, utilizing clever and subtle effects to pull it off, and are good at pairing off dampened, careful themes with harder hitting, richer arranged passages. But rather than opting for art rock, this is a band that applies that approach to progressive metal. Gentle verse parts featuring plucked guitar licks or dampened arrangements followed by majestic guitar and keyboard dominated themes are a formula used in an intelligent manner throughout, and pairing off the latter with twisted, quirky riff excursions another setup encountered on this CD, frequently with subtle alterations of all themes as the compositions develop, and more often than not with a subtly increasing overall intensity. The rhythm department supplies their fair share of details to mesmerize the listener, drummer Koch in particular making a massive contribution in that department. He supplies intense sophisticated rhythms with the same ease as the simple and steady backbeat, adding an extra bit of vitality to the proceedings. As the album by and large have been recorded live in the studio, many aspects of these performances are exceptional in themselves, knowing that the magic studio wand only rarely has been applied to these recordings. There's only one drawback to this album to my ears, and that is the vocals of Markus Bratusa. He's got a fine voice not too far away from the likes of David Bowie in timbre, but does occasionally struggle with the delivery, first and foremost on the ballad Wintersong, but also occasionally on some of the other pieces. A tad too much vibrato and not quite at ease with the gentler passages, slight flaws that I guess will pass with time and experience.

Conclusion. Innovative progressive metal is probably as good a description as anything for the style explored on "For the Love of Ghosts". Traditional progressive metal given a Porcupine Tree inspired makeover, with effective use of contrasting themes and intensity build-ups as central characteristics. Well worth investigating if you're intrigued by a band that attempts to stray outside of the common boundaries of progressive metal yet maintaining an accessible sound.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: May 15, 2012
The Rating Room

Related Links:

MALS Records


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