November 23, 2017

Phlebotomized - Immense Intense Suspense / Skycontact

By Hera Vidal. Phlebotomized is one of those cult bands that disappeared during the late 90’s, only to resurface 16 years later. Their music is what I can only describe as avant-garde, reminding me a lot of Ven Buens Ende and their classic Written in Waters.
By Hera Vidal.

Cover art by Patrick Van Der Zee

Phlebotomized is one of those cult bands that disappeared during the late 90’s, only to resurface 16 years later. Their music is what I can only describe as avant-garde, reminding me a lot of Ven Buens Ende and their classic Written in Waters. However, unlike Ven Buens Ende, Phlebotomized is much more approachable, less chaotic (to an extent), and much more enjoyable. While researching this band and album(s), I saw comparisons between Phlebotomized and Amorphis, and even listened to Tales from the Thousand Lakes to see whether the album had the same sound. I would consider Phlebotomized to be Amorphis’s more flamboyant Dutch cousin – they run in the same sonic circles, but Phlebotomized likes to experiment.

Now, Immense Intense Suspense / Skycontact is actually a compilation of their classic albums, Immense Intense Suspense, released in 1994, and Skycontact, released in 1997. Because this is two albums in one, I will be focusing on one album at a time before giving my closing remarks on this compilation.

Of the two, Immense Intense Suspense is the most conventional – that is, it follows the true-and-tried of death-doom, but it does have some quirks to its music including touches of tech death in the guitar, acoustic tones used sparingly throughout the album, and an avant-garde vibe that comes out through the usage of keyboards. What makes the music work is actually the usage of a violin. There are moments were the main focus of the music is a heavy, sludgy guitar that really brings out the death metal. It can be heard throughout the album, warring with the violin, creating an intense wall of sound that doesn’t let up even during the quiet parts of the album. In fact, one can say that the album is focused around the violin, making sure it shines when it can. Throughout the album there's a suspense coming from not knowing what to expect, as it surprises you at every turn. It definitely sounds a lot different than what was available at the time, but, nowadays, you can find similar surprises in album from say, Oranssi Pazuzu or A Forest of Stars.

Skycontact, on the other hand, decided to throw much of the conventional metal out the window and go full avant-garde. Unlike the non-linear musical structure and lyricism that was used in Immense, Phlebotomized decided to fully embrace their quirky soundscape and their penchant for experimentation, forgoing the violin for the usage of synthesizers and fuzzy guitars. This leads to a cohesive structure of music that, while it can go from one place to another rather quickly, can still follow a set theme. One can claim that Skycontact is a full descent into madness and dreams, dense in its complexity and atmospheric in vocal usage. If Immense is the outside world, then Skycontact is Wonderland. The dreamlike atmosphere of this album is something to behold, fully embracing their quirks without losing all of their previous death-doom sound (see the delightfully titled “I Lost My Cookies in the Disco”).

All in all, Immense Intense Suspense / Skycontact is a compilation album that provides ready access to a band’s discography that is highly niche and would need someone else to direct you to it. Depending on whom you ask, either album is polarizing yet accessible. Personally, of the two, I would suggest starting with Skycontact first, as I think it is the most accessible and enjoyable of the two. Given my penchant for progressive metal, that side of the compilation was easier to take in. Overall, the compilation is a great introduction into the avant-garde, and I fully recommend it to those who enjoy a little weird in their metal.


[Note: track 1-7 is Immense Intense Suspense. Track 8-13 is Skycontact.]
Tagged with 1994, 1997, 2014, avant-garde death metal, doom metal, Hammerheart Records, Hera Vidal, Phlebotomized
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