Originally written by Kris Yancey
The use of “random” feels a little out of place, having just heard Phobia’s newest, 22 Random Acts of Violence for the umpteenth time. Maybe each of the tracks chronicle some violent event in various parts of the world with no correlation to one another. “Random” certainly couldn’t apply to the songwriting or musical genre, so maybe I’d need a bone thrown my way to justify the use of a seemingly empty adjective for a primitive, but not empty, CD.
22 Random Acts of Violence doesn’t follow the tenets of grindcore to the T, but it clings to genre hallmarks (blasting, occasional gang vocals, short song length) with an iron grasp. If anything, Phobia is a band that curtails innovation for “keeping it real,” and I guess that’s okay. After all, grindcore is a genre that is savory on impact. 22 Random Acts isn’t a CD you blare on repeat for hours on end; this is something of an aural palate cleanser.
Phobia’s grindcore jaunts err toward the anarchist political ideas, but is immediately lost in unintelligible vocal grunts and growls. Don’t you hate that? Phobia isn’t a band that is professing anything that hasn’t been considered before (even I remember Crass and “There Is No Authority But Yourself”). Truly, nothing about Phobia is original, but it is clear that this is a band whose purpose is the exchange of ideas. What are ideas when the message teeters on the clarity of Napalm Death but ends up sounding like a fight between a cat and a dog through an intercom?
22 Random Acts is nothing new, inventive, or mentally straining. It does well what it knows well, and it’s good to know because knowledge is power. Phobia is not empowerment, but it is empowering, if only for a little while because it stifles itself with an ideal that is rarely heard, rarer still embraced. Still, this Orange County quartet knows how to grind better than most, and if you liked their last entry, 2006’s Cruel, you should definitely get yourself a copy for your CD player. Though anarchists don’t believe in much, they do believe in stereos. What’s up with that?