PHILM’S HARMONIC: SOMETIMES DRUMS JUST AIN’T ENOUPH. ER, ENOUGH.
Who doesn’t love Dave Lombardo? (Paul Bostaph? Maybe.) He’s the anchor of Slayer; without him they’d just be a mess of palm-muting and aimless Tom Araya shouting. His influence can also be seen all over the last two decades of metal drumming, if for nothing other than the stupefying brilliance of that double bass break near the end of “Angel of Death” (seriously, I’ve heard that fucking song hundreds of dozens of times, and that part never fails to kick me in the gut). He sounds good backing just about any other band, too, from Grip, Inc. to avant-metal wetdream Fantômas. He even sounds great backing his latest side-project, proggy noise rockers Philm. The issue, though, is that there isn’t a ton to Philm aside from that. Harmonic, their debut, gives you plenty to chew on, but none of it really goes down all that well.
That being said, perhaps “there isn’t a ton to Philm aside from that” isn’t entirely fair. The band, from Lombardo on up, are immensely talented. He and bassist Pancho Tomaselli make a solid rhythm section, the latter providing a lot of respectable bass lines. Guitarist and vocalist Garry Nestler is adept at weaving between angular noise rock, heavily-affected prog/post-rock moodiness, and burly chorus riffs. But while the elements are all there, for the most part, the songs aren’t. Philm are at their best when they’re focused on off-kilter shorter numbers like “Mitch”, “Dome”, and opener “Vitriolize”, even despite Nestler’s occasionally (very) grating vocals. But when they go off the map… oof. Harmonic’s more expansive tracks have all the profundity and expressiveness of waiting for an early-evening bus.
And that’s ultimately the album’s downfall: there are looooooong stretches of two or three songs where nothing much happens, only to come back roaring just in time to ebb back out. This sort of thing is a very delicate balancing act; Philm seem like they’re trying to create a journey of an album but end up taking the long way to get to somewhere direct. Four or five cool-enough songs in twenty minutes doesn’t make for a decent hour-long album, or even a good or passable one. Maybe if and when Philm get together for another album they can leave the jamming back at their rehearsal space. If you got Dave Lombardo to pencil you in, make sure you do something substantial with him.