RETRO TUESDAYS: Phlegethon – Fresco Lungs (1991)

For all of the insane and experimental extreme metal coming out of Finland in the early 90’s few jumped between trend and style as often as Phlegethon. From earning brownie points for having some of the earliest Finnish death metal lyrics, to the ripping technical death/thrash of their classic ‘Neutral Forest’ demo in 1990 the band had already done interesting things, but ‘Fresco Lungs’ was their first official release and it turned heads with every track.

This EP does not at all sound like a band expanding upon an established sound but rather a band experimenting freely in the studio without any self-conscious attitudes towards style or expectations. “Stone Me” is quite literally a doom metal song, complete with rock solos and lurching riffs but with guttural death metal vocals abound. Then, of course the infamous “Without Tea Waters” follows with a Skinny Puppy-like danceable beat and some odd industrial metal experimentation. It is repetitive and honestly not -that- amateurish for industrial metal in 1990. From there the band continues on as if nothing happened and the rest of ‘Fresco Lungs’ is heavy, but slightly off-kilter death/doom.

“Encapsulation of the Ark of the Covenant” and it’s mad-libs style lyrics and Samael-meets-Candlemass riffing was a weird revelation for me the first time I heard it. It sort of revealed the EP as some kind of progressive death metal album for me and the amount of non-serious experimentation happening on ‘Fresco Lungs’ is actually very inspiring. Additional tracks on my Witchhunt Records CD are more standard death metal tracks though “The Golden Face” has this Greg Ginn style guitar play that really kind of drew me in back in the day as a big fan of that discordant, dark style especially combined with death metal. It isn’t too far a jump to what bands like Reveal are doing today with records like ‘Flystrips’, though Phlegethon were likely influenced by rock guitar of the day and prog stuff from the sounds of it.

Finland’s underground metal scene in the 90’s is endlessly inspiring to me and as much as Phlegethon might have been kids just making music for the sake of it, ‘Fresco Lungs’ was every bit as visionary and strange as Thergothon or Xysma at the time. If only they could have sat still long enough to develop this sound even more. I’d highly recommend tracking this down if you’re a death/doom or Finnish death metal completionist like I am, or if you’re just a fan of experimentation in extreme metal.

Artist Phlegethon
Type EP
Released 1991 [CD version 1992]
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