Reviewed: December 2013
Released: 2013, Independent
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Just under a year after their debut DEATH ON RED WINGS, London\’s epic extreme metallers Phyrexia release WHERE THE GODS GO TO DIE; a maelstrom of blackened, atmospheric power that bridges the gap between their well-received debut and their future sophomore whilst serving as a farewell to departing vocalist Elliot Beaver (now spitting fury for Hecate Enthroned) and drummer Tom Atherton (now focusing on manning the throne in Carpathia).
Apart from DEATH ON RED WINGS producer Tom Sullivan returning to aid in drum recording at Castlepathia, WHERE THE GODS GO TO DIE is an entirely self-produced affair – guitarist Daniel Saunders masterminded the band\’s recording, production, mixing and mastering himself and presents a generally darker sound. Their debut was raw, screaming, visceral and aggressive – whilst these remain the case on this EP, there is a darker undertone. Simon McAuliffe\’s bass, an instrument oft-negated to the forgotten ethers of metal mixes, is present and menacing, whilst the guitars carry an older and more shadowy tone. Coupled with the grandiose keys heralded by Vicky Thompson, tracks like “Overlord” a distinct malevolence, pomposity and wonderment which is only furthered by the fantasy-themed lyrics.
Opener “A Requiem For The Bloodborn” is immediate in demonstrating this – launching into a descending cascade of cacophony laced with keys that cut through the mix brilliantly to add a little light to proceedings, but the lead work of Saunders and Paul Nazarkardeh really shines here – intertwining, inventive and purposeful. Where they work particularly well is when accompanied by those keys; evoking the misty fantasy lands their lyrics allude to – listen to the “verse” section of the title track “Where The Gods Go To Die” for further evidence of this. The standout track, however, is “Overlord” – that grandiose nature previously mentioned is none more so apparent than on this. For seven-minute-long track, it flows between light and shade; fast and slow. The middle half-time stomp is excellent – choir-like keys, melodic tremolo-guitars, creative bass, stomping drums and chaotic vocals. What more could be needed to round off a solid EP? Perhaps an ovation-worthy performance from Beaver and Atherton\’s swansong as they bow out on their time in Phyrexia – do they deliver?
On this performance, they will be a sad departure as they deliver in spades. Beaver possesses a powerful roar and a blood-curdling shriek, both of which are used to great effect – blending the two at times for greater emphasis. Unlike many vocalists, his performance here mixes the two and constantly offers a shifting sense of drama to the rest of the album. Meanwhile, Atherton is both a solid and creative drummer – his short fill in that verse section of “Where The Gods Go To Die”, whilst sounding relatively simple, just offers a delightful demonstration of creativity that is most welcome in a genre that can often be so focused on relentless blasting (something of which he does with aplomb as well).
There are times, though, that the kit feels a little thin and the kick, particularly, gets lost in the mix. It doesn\’t completely disappear – it IS still there – but it\’s presence isn\’t felt as much as it is in other places. The same occurs with the snare, noticeable in blasting sections of “Overlord” – it IS still there and can be noticed listened for, but it just doesn\’t have that commanding presence. That being said, it is a joy to hear a kit that is both live and avoids common modern sounds (such as the “clicking” kick) as well as a softer master – WHERE THE GODS GO TO DIE allows for greater breathing room between dynamics and it works so well. The softer passages, such as the glorious beginning of “Overlord” sound more haunting and delicate, whilst the furious heavier passages sound that much more vicious. Further proof that a record doesn\’t need to be mastered to the ceiling for it to sounds good.
WHERE THE GODS GO TO DIE is a solid release – taking the baton from Phyrexia\’s debut and maintaining their stride, whilst adding further inflections to the tried-and-trusted power metal and black metal combination. For fans of these genres, this is definitely worth a listen and there\’ll be something for fans of all metal sub-genres to enjoy. For want of a few drum mix tweaks, it\’d be nigh-on a perfect bridging-EP. Beaver and Atherton bow out on a high and Phyrexia can cast their eyes on their sophomore. Meanwhile, enjoy their latest offering… Or they\’ll set their dragons on you.
Review by: Lee Carter
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