With a career that has spanned 30-plus years to date (factoring in a 16-year departure), Dutch Death Metaller’s Phlebotomized are a band with a legacy and a cult following even amongst extreme music. Attributed as being one of the first such bands to use additional instrumentation including synths, theirs was a sound that was considered by many unique and pioneering at the time and in part a clear influence on many bands since then and in the current day. With this in mind, how does the new Phlebotomized hold up in the current day? On the evidence of Clouds Of Confusion (Hammerheart), pretty well.
The reputation of the band suggests an avant-garde and adventurous approach to Death Metal. In comparison, Clouds Of Confusion feels arguably more straightforward and certainly invokes nineties extreme metal but this is not to say it doesn’t show signs of inventiveness. Album opener ‘Bury My Heart’ is a brief, scene-setting introduction as it builds from a largely piano, Gothic prominence as it builds into further Death Metal territory, flowing into ‘Alternate Universe’ which showcases melodic Death Metal flourishes with a brooding tone throughout.
The use of synth/piano amongst further instrumentation contributes to that reminiscing of nineties sounds (of which they were of course a part of). Amongst veering between melodicism and pace within Death Metal, there is a dark tone throughout which such instrumentation emphasises, bringing to mind early Amorphis and, on the likes of ‘A Unity Your Messiah Pre-Claimed?’, the likes of the Peaceville Three, particularly My Dying Bride.
Ultimately, through no real fault of their own, the hidden gem status means that for many contemporary listeners, such acts will be brought to mind, as well as echelons of acts that have taken on from such sounds. This is far from a criticism however because just as assuredly such listeners will find plenty of worth in this with some very solid moments and elements of emotional resonance. An undeniably important act in the Death Metal world that deserves some recognition.
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7 / 10