“All along, it’s punctuated by the thunderous blows of Lomabaro’s drumming, using a stripped down, 4 piece kit. It’s barely able to contain his energy, or the extra couple of arms he appears to be sporting.” – Dara Higgins on Philm‘s Harmonic.
Dave Lombardo, world’s greatest drummer but none, is reinventing the power trio, with Garry Nestler of Civil Defiance fame on guitar and vocal duties, and Pancho Tomaselli of funk dilettantes, War on bass. They attempt to mesh the various backgrounds together, thrash and metal, a bit of funk, fat riffs that sounds like disaffected Californian punk from the eighties. Occasional forays into east coast hardcore. The vocals involve some emotive screaming and the energy levels a high.
The album starts off sounding like American punk and hardcore of the early eighties, somewhere between Black Flag and Adolescents, maybe, except with far superior drumming. Vitriolize, Mitch, Hun blur by at a fair clip. Mitch even dares to veer close to Slayer territory, sort of. It’s as close as the record comes, anyway, until you realise that you can actually hear the bass. All along, it’s punctuated by the thunderous blows of Lomabaro’s drumming, using a stripped down, 4 piece kit. It’s barely able to contain his energy, or the extra couple of arms he appears to be sporting. Hun is a more Bleach era Nirvana kind of noise. Some of the riffing leans heavily in that kind of direction, early grunge, maybe even a hint of less sanitised R.A.T.M. The next track Areas, pack a great chorus. Garry’s voice, gravelly and dark can also melodise, apparently. He gets to invoke scary imagery with a kind of lilting menace: Spiders making their nest. Shudder.
Way Down, is a kind of febrile blues number, starting with a slow, uneasy riff that explodes into a web of guitar soloing. This is power trio territory, after all, a kind of Cream tribute with some extra dissonance thrown in. But the guitar chops are right out of the blues handbook, and a load of chugging, distorted delay isn’t going to hide that. This is Philm’s trick, then, to play an aggressive American Punk noise, but to have the underlying ability to veer off into the unknown, as it were. Here in the gooey, weird centre of this record, the title track Harmonic, Philm go from atmospheric, to a kind of Brand X jamming that isn’t quite improv. They can play, for sure, but only one of them is The Greatest at what he does.
Sex Amp brings us back on point. The riff, the pounding, the emotive screaming, and the album veers between this kind of rocking, and some more, spacier, solo-filled instrumental numbers until its conclusion. With fifteen tracks, and clocking in at over an hour, there’s a lot of information to take in. The ability of the cast here makes the wig outs and prog attempts acceptable listening. It is in fact in the short sharp shock of the rocking numbers where a certain sameness begins to creep in. Lombardo is still god, however, so everything is forgiven, and the man certainly knows how to vary his game.
Harmonic is out on May 14th on Ipecac Recordings.