Released: 2014, Unundeux Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Essen, Germany's, Phobiatic return for a second go-round in the tech-death trenches with new vocalist Sebastian Meisen. Granted vocals tend to be treated as a necessary evil by many tech-death acts – and often seem like an afterthought used to fill the spaces between all the instrumental chicanery – but Meisen's sinister, husky roar helps add some teeth to Phobiatics' histrionics.
The band's fleet, freewheeling musical assault immediately calls to mind Origin in the screeching, widdly-twiddly forays and divebomb riff-o-rama of guitarist Robert Nowak and the all-over-the-place, turn-on-a-dime rhythms of bassist Michael Stifft and drummer Kai Bracht. Fragments of Flagrancy rarely stays in one place or at one tempo for long. It's all peaks and valleys, S-curves and hang on for dear life, only occasionally throwing in some powerhouse hooks or cutting riffs, as on “Downward Spiral,” “Abnormal Dilation” or “A Genius of Manipulation.”
But Meisen's fearsome voice and forceful cadence helps bring needed focus to the band's ADD-inclined musical inclinations. It cuts through the pick-sweeping shrill and spray-gun drums of the tempestuous “Suitable Method” “Metropolis of the Dead” or “Like Pigs In Dirt” to point them in the right direction and make them “songier,” which given the dearth of melody here is pretty big deal.
Especially since Flagrancy's most structurally sound, traditionally crafted song, “House In Cleveland,” is the clumsiest and least effective track on the album. It's mid-tempo pace, more refined approach and chunky riffs really go nowhere, and Meisen's deliberately croaked narrative inspired by the Ariel Castro kidnappings sounds like second-rate Chris Barnes: more exploitation than evocation.
But it's the lone real dud on the album. That said, there's also few real standouts here, The instrumental performances are certainly capable, but Fragments of Flagrancy rings a bit hollow since the songs rarely settle into any sort of groove. That leaves Meisen's vocal lines to lead the way and connect the dots, which is perhaps asking too much.