Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Album Review: Phantom Glue – A War Of Light Cones
Phantom Glue are a band who, very much like the now defunct These Arms Are Snakes, sound like two different forces welded together. One half is pure punk — all fast snarling bile and sharp bites of anguish. The other is a heavy-lidded twin guitar stoner — all loping chugs with evocative, interlocking riffery laid over the top. On top of this, there is something darker tucked away in the music and lyrics. It’s interesting to note then, that vocalist/guitarist Matt Oakes describes this edgy album as “a nightmare/occult alternate history of Colonial America”. Here, there is very much the sense of a band wanting to have their cake and eat it.
When they are not battering you with violent crushers like the fiery opener ‘Perils’ or the ear-damaging, High On Fire-esque rip ‘Bow In The Dust’, they are seeking out an effervescent top-end to stir things up. This latter styling brings them more into line with the kind of thrilling post-rock-cum-sludge material that Steak Number Eight and Mastodon are keen on putting out there. ‘Biocult’, for instance, spends less time bawling at you and languishes longer in the musical combination of bubbling top-end bass and deep, sludge-flinging stringwork. When it does shift, it is into a dynamic, cleaner phase that does feel a little tacked on. One track that follows this and the more-driven ‘Arboreal‘ to a fine conclusion is ‘Test Pattern’. It’s a song which wastes no time digging out a sloth-like groove onto which is built a network of memorable riffs. In these lighter places, they seem happiest; free enough to throw in clean-heeled arpeggios and solos to their hearts content.
Having been left rotting on the backburner for all this time, you’d imagine the band to be a bit more generous, but they still only seem willing to stretch themselves to 6 tracks and 28 minutes. That’s a pretty paltry return when parts of what is here simply passes you by. It’s also true that, in those two years they have spent trying to secure that label release, various riff-loving scaremongers have stepped forward with fine albums – bands like Black Cobra, Burning Love and High On Fire (all Ballou’s other projects) and others like Steak Number Eight, Saviours and Family (US, not UK). The void that was there, following These Arms Are Snakes (and, to an extent, Isis‘) sad demise, has now well and truly been filled. Now, it all feels a little crowded in this space and Phantom Glue’s somewhat muddled second album is going to struggle for air amongst some of those monster releases.