Good day all,
The following review was originally posted on METAL BUZZ website at http://metalbuzz.net/site/reviews/philm-harmonic/
My guess is that when you play with Slayer every now and then you need to change things up so you don’t make yourself crazy. It seems as though it would be hard to continue on a constant barrage that Slayer is as a band and in the music that they write and perform. So I have to think that when Dave Lombardo decided to start Philm he decided that he needed something different than the aural assault that is Slayer. With the help of WAR bassist Pancho Tomaselli and guitarist/singer Gerry Nestler of the prog metal group Civil Defiance, Lombardo has released the first album under the Philm name. Understand this now, this is not Slayer, this isn’t even close to Slayer! If you were looking for the trademark violent double bass that you are used to hearing from Slayer, you are looking at the wrong album, move on, this album is not for you!
However, if you are looking for a little something different that combines a little metal with a more jazz fusion, ambient type vibe then this album is for you. It is not really that unusual for a metal performer to take a trip outside of the genre, Alex Skolnick has had a pretty solid career at this for a long time with his jazz trio and there are plenty of other metal artists out there trying something different all of the time. That is all Lombardo is doing here, I have a hard time believing he would leave Slayer for this, but anything is possible. But I digress, back to album from Philm.
The album, titled Harmonic is a sixty minute trip on a very unique musical path. When I first started listening to this album all I could think of was Spinal Tap’s “Jazz Odyssey”, this album is not as bad as the Spinal Tap adventure into jazz by any stretch but it is definitely something that most metal heads are going to have to get used to if they even give it a chance. Another comparison I almost instantly had was to what Stone Temple Pilots where doing in the mid to late 90’s with albums like Tiny Music…Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, it was a different take on what they do well and as different as it was it worked. Philm has a similar vibe here but it is one that I think stretches pretty thin pretty quickly.
I have no problem with the jazz / ambient thing, but I think they tried to hard to force this music at their audience, especially when they are considered or considering themselves a metal band. As far as I can tell from the multiple listens I have had of this album it seems closer to a grunge or alternative album than anything metal. Again, this is not bad, it just isn’t metal to me, and I think that it would be a disservice to not point that out.
The sound on the album is really good, it is a nice stripped down trio that sounds like something that would be great to experience live but I think looses something when you try to put 15 experimental songs on an album and expect a listener to stay engaged throughout the whole listening experience. As I stated above the stripped down sound of Lombardo and company is really cool, Lambardo even stripped down his drum kit to four pieces, which if you ever saw his Slayer kit you may find hard to believe, but that is what makes this album a really good jazz-fusion / alternative / grunge album. It is simple in its structure but complicated in its sound. An achievement by the player’s but as far as I am concerned just not metal.
Harmonic is 60 minute trek on the outer reaches of the progressive / jazz side of music and it has some nice highlights when it comes to the performance by the band itself. A couple of the better songs on this album happen to also be the opener and the closer of the album. “Vitrolize” starts of strong and really does show what this band is about from the start. The off timed drum beats and the electronically enhanced vocals give the listener a looking glass into what is to follow from the next 14 songs. Just as strong is the album’s closer “Meditation” which is a fuzzy finale with the just the right amount of fill to make the song complete. But as I said before, you have to be able to get to that last song to enjoy it and I don’t know how a metal head is expected to do that.
Philm has created a well produced, complicated and different album in Harmonic and if nothing else Dave Lombardo should be commended for stepping way outside of his Slayer shoes and making an album he wanted to make. For those that are into the jazz-fusion, ambient, artsy side of music they should really enjoy this album and for the talent that is associated with Philm it is probably going to be considered a great album by this crowd. As for me, I will wait for the next Slayer album!
Until later, Peace!