PHOBIA AND CATHETER: ALL SET IN UNDER 30 MINUTES LIKE YOUR PIZZA WOULD BE FREE
Length of time can be an odd thing. For instance, I recently watched M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender (because… I honestly don’t know why. I was feeling too good about my life? Eating a bowl of refried beans, hot sauce, and a potent laxative would have been too inconvenient?), and despite it being around ninety-three minutes long, I was shocked to look up and see it was 9:30 and not well past midnight when it was over. With horrid acting, a thoroughly punchable little kid as the lead, and some of the most convoluted and choppy plotting this side of Dune (without the aid of early Virginia Madsen, probably one of the greatest things mankind has ever done), I found myself trapped in a void of timelessness, an endless middle section of Zack Snyder’s trademark fast-slooooow-fast sequences (which Airbender rips off pretty shamelessly toward the end).
In contrast, I was in the same realm during Phobia’s Remnants of Filth, except it wasn’t a thrill ride on par with listening to a tax attorney talk about his or her day, but a proper album’s worth of songs that run just under twenty minutes. Good grind does this well, which is why Phobia have been around in some form as long as they have. Remnants of Filth is dense but never a slog, a fully-realized collection of ideas rattled off at a rapid clip.
You could argue it’s the little moments that surface in the middle of the grind haze, like the arty sustained chords that open the first few bars of “Dementia Having Overdose” or the nifty little hardcore grooves that show up here and there (“Deaden to Believe” in particular), that make it more than a featureless sprint. But really, those just make the whole thing sweeter. Phobia have grindcore down, playing on the element of chaos that exists between punk and metal and volleying with ease between the two, sounding equally comfortable churning chords over d-beats and acting like machines of war over blasts. So even though Remnants of Filth doesn’t vary much in terms dynamics, it doesn’t feel slight. It simultaneously wraps up leaving one wanting more and provides just enough. So if there’s more woozy eviscerators like “Freedom Isn’t Free” coming down the pipe, may their steady stream of EPs and splits continue unabated until they decide to shit out another full length.
Compared to Phobia’s meat, potatoes, and bloodlust grind, Colorado blastmasters Catheter are adventurous and daring in their genre manipulating. Compared most else, though, they’re pretty straightforward groovy deathgrind. Granted, Catheter sound a little more comfortable in floor-clearing hardcore slow-parts and sludgy doom crawls (listen to that opening of “A Thousand Lies”) than most on Southwest Doom Violence (currently streaming here), though the “doom” in the title refers more to dread than Electric Wizard wankery. The band bite from whatever genre they need to get a grimy point across, vocals gurgled or screamed with insistent points to make. By the time “In This Moment”’s animal rights screed closes out the album, it doesn’t sound out of place. While Southwest Doom Violence never comes across as overly self-serious or any more preachy than hardcore or political grindcore can be, it does seem to be serious about its shit. No scatological humor, no pornogrind sex/rape/murder snipes, just serious-minded grindcore.
This, of course, is helped by the fact that the album is covered in a muddy grittiness that enhances Catheter’s approach: guitars and bass snarl when fast and crackle and growl when slowed. The snare snaps and pings and cymbals wash out everything around them. But it’s never, basement black metal-style, cruddy for the sake of cruddy. Music like this needs to be raw, on the verge of collapsing into itself. But Catheter have enough command to be able to confidently prop themselves up. That’s why Southwest Doom Violence — which at half an hour is downright proggy compared to their peers — is such a great listen: defiantly unhygienic, they summon a clusterfuck of forward momentum that matters. Much like Phobia, they know to make the little space they have mean a fuck of a lot. Time is relative, and hopefully both these albums can somehow make up for the ninety-three minutes The Last Airbender took from me. If not, I’d like a quantum physicist to figure something out, because I have been wronged. Seriously wronged.
Phobia, Remnants of Filth
(3 ½ out of 5 horns)
Catheter, Southwest Doom Violence