Seventeen songs… Fourteen minutes…
If you didn’t already know what you’re getting from a Phobia record, that alone should tell you: this is grindcore, pure and simple; it’s d-beat-fueled, blast-filled and violent. This SoCal four-piece has, in some form or another, been bashing along for two decades now. Now they’re back on first home Relapse after stints on Deep Six and most recently Willowtip, and while this band hasn’t changed as they’ve aged, they certainly haven’t slowed down either.
All of the typical Phobia traits are here: some micro-songs tossed amongst more fleshed-out 1-minute ragers, Shane McLachlan’s dry-throated growl and larynx-tearing screams, lightning-speed riffs atop blastbeats, and punk-er than thou subject matter ranging from political to the false-punk baiting “If You Used To Be Punk, Then You Never Were.” After the crust-ish build-up of introductory instrumental “T.R.O.G.,” the pace seldom slows below full-on for the remainder of the disc. Phobia’s grind almost never varies or tarries, although there are a few slight change-ups like the skank-worthy middle riff in “Rehashed” or the driving intro to “Nothing Matters” or the shift into out-and-out d-beat for “If You Used To Be…,” all of which serve brilliantly to offset the sheer pounding for a second or three. The production is solid, albeit not as sharp as that of Cruel, and the band is suitably primed—drummer Bryan Fajardo (also of fellow Relapse grinders Kill The Client) particularly stands out in the crisp and dry sound, and his performance is first-rate.
In the end, this is a Phobia record, and that’s all there is to say. They’re not the type of band that’s going to convert the unconverted; they’re consistent and content to grind their niche into oblivion; they’re not going to change the world and the world isn’t going to change them. This is, after all, the band that once titled an album Loud Proud And Grind As Fuck, all of which they are. While not a complete knockout, like Loud before it, Unrelenting is still an aptly named record—it isn’t named “progressive,” you’ll notice. This is what Phobia does and has always done, and as usual, they do it well; this is fourteen minutes of flat-out crusty grindcore, neither the band’s best nor worst (Cruel tops it easily; 22 Random Acts Of Violence does not), and it fits an album’s worth of quality anger into roughly half the time of a normal disc.
Grinders and punkers will be pleased with Unrelenting, and I’m sure the band would say that all others can kindly piss off.