DEPHOSPHORUS – Sublimation (2020)REVIEW

Using a transitional state of matter to represent ascension to a ‘higher dimensional’ existence has been so successful as a science fiction trope these last fifty or so years because of its complex yet unchallenged violation of scientific law, wherein mere transmission would somehow change the nature of body and soul to -ascended- status. O’ to look down upon you from glorious prayāṇa! Naturally our feigned belief in the land of ‘God’, cloud-stretched bliss, and infinite benevolent pleasure-domes has this transcendental promise implanted in a very serious tone from a young age and unfortunately so few of us grow up to view the world on a molecular level and unlock the malevolent jaws of this lie. In author Iain M. Banks’ second-to-last novel The Hydrogen Saga (2012) the world, the vision, the politico, and the ensuing battle for power and acquisition that arises after a civilization decides to “sublime” to a higher plane all intends to serve followers of his The Culture setting a viable and well-enlightened afterlife in Sublimation. Yet the novel itself deign us remember it so readily for this obviate construct, instead its name conjures a mystery surrounding an nigh impossible piece of music that must be ones life’s work to perform; The titular T. C. Vilabier’s 26th Strong-Specific Sonata For An Instrument Yet To Be Invented demands a second pair of arms be grown and craft of an eleven-stringed instrument that the muso must wear as a third leg. The protagonist has dedicated her life to this art, sated and embodied within its work while her civilization dissolves upward into the next realm. This is perhaps the deeper, perhaps even slyly intended central message of the novel that should connect very deeply with driven musicians — A life’s work is far, far more important than any generalist spiritual transcendence achieved en masse simply because you have worked, suffered, joyed and sacrificed for its art. The screaming reap of psyche-blurring blackened deathgrind quartet Dephosphorus have long transgressed worlds, posited faraway planes and dissolved frontiers to rend ascension and with ‘Sublimation‘ they appear to have finally broken through to their own righteous dimension beyond anything previously imagined.

With so many crust and hardcore punk musicians breaking out into extreme metal territory these last two decades you’d think more of them would sound like you’d imagine, monstrous riff-heavy grindcore naturally borrowing dissonance from black metal and cyclonic brutality from modern death metal’s retro cathode bias glint yet we’re too often served conventionality. Such is not the case with Dephosphorus who’d formed circa 2008 after the disbanding of Athens, Greece deathgrinders Straighthate where two key members decided to focus on further reaching underground experimentation and science fiction themes. The core personae of their music was already alight on their earliest releases (‘Axiom‘, 2011) but at the time I don’t think folks had much to compare it with, a realm that exists somewhere in between Agrimonia, Wake and Mitochondrion. Each release showed some grand textural bound or evolution of their signature shouted-yet-finessed mid-to-blast paced attack but for my taste Dephosphorus truly hit their stride when drummer Jon Votsis (Caedes Cruenta, Embrace of Thorns, ex-Ectoplasma) joined for ‘Ravenous Solemnity‘ (2014) and from there the material from their troupe has been pure gold as a modern-yet-substantive exploration of deathgrind’s outer-reaches via impressive, spirited performances and clever songwriting. In 2017 I believe we’d all thought ‘Impossible Orbits‘ was the apex predator of this evolution but I must now argue that ‘Sublimation’ is even more thoughtfully achieved.

That origin which unites us all is the medium wherein all disciplines return when exhausted of resources — All extreme metal is bonded by the equalized origin of some punk idiot blasting away on his drums too fast and that core impulse often acts as the glue to merge oddly separate-but-equal forms such as black/thrash, deathgrind, etc. Dephosphorus center themselves with a decidedly ‘hardcore punk’ vocal scream which can read anywhere between Tomas Lindberg and Austere given the right circumstance. This allows for the palette they paint with to be as expansive as is needed without losing the tight and effective focus of deathgrind via a solvency of muscular death metallic grooves, elevated crust/grindcore hybridization and some dissonant mid-paced grips of black metal. Think along the lines of Wake‘s current blackening with a shot of Napalm Death‘s ‘Enemy of the Music Business‘ empowering their attack. “Βορά Των Αιώνων (Devoured By Aeons)” dives right into this with a warped martial d-beat riff side-swiped by early 90’s death/thrash intensity and then modulated via dissonant black/death metal standards, an incredibly dense structural feat delivered with the ease of a pendulum. From there the album is a series of eruptions (“Ψυχοϊστορία (Psychohistory)”) and atmospheric incantations (“Εξύψωση (Sublimation)”) that add up to a phenomenally representative whole, resembling Banks and other science fiction author-prompted atmospheric works while mastering their multi-lingual status beyond the range of most extreme metallic oeuvre. The heart of ‘Sublimation’ is yet still deathgrind but there are some touches of noise rock, post-hardcore and crust that became more prominent in feature as I dug in. These influences will eventually jump right down the ears of listeners, most notably when the immense groove of “Absurd Aftermath” stomps into view. This is actually the piece that convinced me to buy the record and I don’t doubt it’ll be that extra touch to convince others as well. There is a whole world beyond that dimensional breach and they’ve only just wriggled through it with here.

Side B is where things really begin to spread wide open with “Neural Lace” taking those mid-paced jogs into a screaming, writhing space-grinder doom rock anthem. Things do eventually shake out of stasis back into lightspeed around “In Dimensions 7 to 11” but the middle portion of ‘Sublimation’ will feel like vital mid-paced emphasis to be absorbed of its intricacies and ultimately, the main event. The greater effect is still blackened deathgrind but the energetic experimentation spanning ‘Sublimation’ is too stunning to simply pass by unnoticed. In preview I don’t think I’d initially appreciated the finer points of this record because its consistently shouted presence had distracted from the wild things accomplished underneath, and it wasn’t until I’d gone back to ‘Impossible Orbits’ for comparison that I began to truly soak in those cosmic freak rock elements that are still flooring me today. The sense of positive change and psyche-enriching progress made within the expanding presence of Dephosphorus is wildly impressive to me though I feel like foresight for a new high point beyond is totally apt at this juncture. Even higher realms are in view. Of course they could choose to ascend beyond or be sated here, either way ‘Sublimation’ makes a fine argument for letting an album breathe and allow time for its finer details to expose with some patience. A high recommendation.

High recommendation.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Selfmadegod [CD],
Nerve Altar [Vinyl, US],
7 Degrees [Vinyl, EU]
RELEASE DATE:September 11th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Kosmik Deathgrind

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