Three albums in and France's PHAZM have the death 'n' roll thing down to a science. Not only that, but they've managed to incorporate a range of rock 'n' roll styles into their dirty, downtuned brand of metal without any of it coming off contrived. The sinister sounds that permeate the music make the mix that much more intriguing. Naming this release "Cornerstone of the Macabre" makes perfect sense then. It may be the band's most complete album yet.Though the black metal quotient is significant (mainly present in the shading and Pierrick Valence's [SCARVE] croaky vocals), the style is just as much one of rocking death. Where PHAZM has always succeeded is in making albums that burn with a skillful balance of rock 'n' roll fire and death metal thud. There is not a track on the album that sounds exactly like any other, which helps to keep "Cornerstone of the Macabre" interesting all the way to the end. "Love Me Rotten (Love me True)" kicks things off with a rolling groove and sinister riff/tone, yet doesn't stay there, speeding up, changing out, and closing with a section of morbid clean picking. Then you get songs like "The Worm on the Hook" and "Welcome to my Funeral", the former big, chunky, and ugly with a stomping rhythm, the latter a grotesque plodder with what sounds like a harmonica in the distance. Speaking of which, the non-traditional (for metal) bits work because they sound genuine and flow effortlessly through the song structures. It could be something as simple as the click-stick counting intro of "Damnation" (like the beginning of ZZ TOP's "La Grange") or the JOHNNY CASH shuffle and speak/croak vocal on the verses of "Mucho Mojo", which ultimately give way to slam-bang choruses. And let's not forget the opening slide guitar segment of the very same song. Acoustic instrumental "Strange Song" could damn near fit on a WEEDEATER album as one of those lazy swamp ditties. The tunes that stick to a more straight ahead style still come with plenty of dirty boogie, as heard on "The Old Smell of the Meat", and sometimes just go for the jugular with the good 'ole blasting found on "The End". Prior to listening, one may wonder whether the cover of METALLICA's "Damage Inc." will sound out place. Fears are allayed when the act's sludgy treatment is proven to kick copious amounts of ass. There is plenty to like about this one. With generous helpings of evil attitude, blackened rock swing, and grungy death metal pummel, PHAZM continues to kick out the hard jams with refreshing vigor.
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