Written by Kep
Phasma – Epiales
Death metal/deathcore from the US / Greece
Releasing March 26 via independent/self-release
If I know one thing about metalheads it’s that most of us are gigantic nerds. High fantasy? We love that shit. Video games? Let’s compare trophies. Sci-fi? Oh hell yes. That’s why when you read “Phasma” you might think of this shiny motherfucker:
But you know what we also love? Horror. Disturbing narratives crafted and delivered by minds that reach just a bit further into the unfeeling void that most. And if we can mix that and our musical taste for the extreme together? Well, that’s where bands like Phasma come in.
Phasma (the one that isn’t a useless side character in a galaxy far, far away) is an international two-man project made up of Greek multi-instrumentalist Jason Athanasiadis and vocalist/lyricist Luis Ferre of the US. If that second name rings a bell, it’s probably because Ferre is also the vocalist for death dealers Gravecarver, whose 2021 debut I wrote about here. Epiales is this duo’s second album, following their self-titled LP back in 2018. While Phasma was a frenzy of intense, techy brutality a la Infant Annihilator, this follow-up is something a bit more nuanced and difficult to pin down. “Epiales” was the demon of nightmares in ancient Greek mythology, and this album is in the narrative nightmare spirit: a collection of scary and unsettling tales.
So what is it musically? It’s a goddamn blast to listen to, I’ll tell you that much. I love a record that doesn’t pigeonhole itself and is more than happy to cross stylistic lines in the service of a blasphemous good time, and Epiales is absolutely that. At its core is a foundation of rock solid death metal riffs, chugging headbang bait that provides a home base for all of the eclectic insanity that whirls around it, and a healthy helping of destructive deathcore grooves. You need that strong groundwork at the heart of this sort of record or else everything will fall flat, and Phasma makes sure you know they’ve got that base right up front, launching into a chunky, energetic passage just 28 seconds into opener and lead single “Garden of Crucified Nazarenes”. That driving pace and those balls-to-the-wall vocals will put a damn smile on your face.
Beyond those killer grooves there’s a little bit of everything extreme, and Phasma isn’t afraid to throw all of it plus the damn kitchen sink at you in a single song. Take “And Icarus Fell”, which kicks off with a miasma of dissonant blackened death, passes through a jaunty bass-and-vox groove, levels a few buildings with slams, blends vicious brutal vocals with a pseudo-electronica beat, and then beats into dust whatever structures were left standing. Or maybe “Part I: The Birthing Crypt” is a better example, opening blackened with tremendous bass licks in the mix before suddenly downshifting into a more laid-back passage with clever metric trickery and spoken word vocals, then laying down an infectious driving rhythm, passing through a little -core and djent, and ending with mid-pace riffage and fat ass tone. This is the whole record: varied and infectiously fun to listen to, all-or-nothing songwriting that’s refreshing as hell.
Now I know what you’re thinking. If it’s that wide-ranging, it’s probably a mess more often than not, yeah? Well you’re wrong, you smug asshole. There’s a level of songwriting restraint that’s nothing short of miraculous given that extremities Phasma goes to. The duo makes effective use of mood-transitioning moments that act as a calming transitive gel, allowing the tracks to breathe and develop, like when they apply the brakes to the bestial violence midway through “Feast in the Temple of Ghluun”, or when “Hills of Behelit” uses a plethora of meters and tempos to move from mystical atmosphere to the shred of the album’s sole guitar solo. Every now and then a transition doesn’t entirely mesh, like two puzzle pieces that almost fit but aren’t quite a match—a couple moments on the back half of “Malebolge” come to mind—but those spots are the exception, not the rule.
And that horror influence? The record and all of its glorious diversity is tied together with some awesome narrative lyrics that tell the twisted stories of the tracks in disconcerting detail. It’s deliciously creepy and loquacious stuff. I’ll give you one delicious sample, from closer “The Hymns of Novus Christus” where the narrator is creating…something: “Spiderlike appendages sprout all around / Protruding rib bones like spikes to heaven / Fingers and teeth have formed a crown / Instead of eyes just two depressions / A pit in its stomach a place of worship”. Oh yeah, it’s excellent stuff, and there’s so much more where that came from.
On the individual performance front, the 39 minutes of Epiales are a monster display by Ferre on vocals. If you’re a fan of frontmen like Sven from Aborted or Julien Truchan of Benighted—guys who have stylistic range for days and energy to match—you’ll love the chameleon-like way that he can switch approaches up from moment to moment. The death roars are impressive, sure, but there’s even more here, as he also delivers brutal gutturals, demonic screams, and a wide range of growls and bellows. Athanasiadis is no slouch, either, with catchy riffs for days, bass playing worthy of multiple listens just to catch all the cool little licks, and that same adaptable approach that shines no matter the influence he’s leaning into. It’s worth mentioning also that he programmed the drums, too, which sound fantastic due to him recording nearly all the individual sounds himself.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Don’t let Epiales pass you by when it drops this weekend. This sophomore offering from Phasma is a goddamn good time, a collection of delightfully ugly and disturbing stories delivered via killer death metal destruction, deathcore slams and grooves, and a suitably wicked dose of black metal filth. I’ll bet it finds a place in that nasty, twisted spot that our nerdy little hearts appreciate so much.