Thursday, May 24, 2012
PHILM - Harmonic
This is gonna seriously piss of some Slayer fans. Dave Lombardo is without question the greatest drummer in metal today and has been for a few decades now. But he's also no stranger to playing outside of the metal realm, whether it's with Fantomas, John Zorn or bashing his way through Vivaldi's Four Seasons. His new trio PHILM not really like anything like he's done before. He's stripped down his massive kit to a small 4 piece (but thankfully has kept the gong) and plays a more restrained style in this psychedelic trio. Note I did not say power trio. At times the music gets rocking, but is nowhere near Cream, Blue Cheer, etc.
PHILM is rounded out by guitarist/vocalist Gerry Nestler and bassist Pancho Tomaselli (a long-time member of War). Their debut album Harmonic is a very groovy affair. Lots of improv and the guitar playing emphasizes atmosphere. The rhythm section is beyond tight and flexible. You know these guys have must have jammed out on "Low Rider" and "Slipping Into Darkness." I would love to hear that! The influence of Pink Floyd is pretty strong but there's a lot of Led Zeppelin in there, too. Lombardo is a well known pot head and some of this record sounds like they got really baked and watched The Song Remains The Same before heading to the jam room. The song "Way Down" uses a slowed down "Whole Lotta Love" riff for the verses before launching into a "No Quarter" jam.
Musically I have no complaints with this record. The jams on "Sex Amp," "Harmonic" and most of the other songs are cool. The only real drawback is in the vocal department. Nestler's voice is OK but doesn't have a lot of range. It can't be easy to put words to these songs but too often he falls into an almost spoken word delivery. When the songs heat up in intensity the vocals turn into a kind of predictable Tool-influenced type of thing. Not bad, but nothing to get too excited about either. On the other hand, vocals do help some of the songs from just being meandering jams. A frontman would probably be bored in a band like this. In a live situation I could easily see this being much more effective. Like I said before, people who only like metal will hate this but since Ripple attracts such a wide range of musical nut jobs, I know I'm not alone in appreciating this one.