A lot of extreme metal isn’t particularly, well, extreme. Melody, sheen, and progressive elements might end up dominating, or maybe there’s a tendency to lift a bunch of NWOBHM riffs, leaving some screeching dude as the only thing that would turn off your great uncle Patchy Von Denimsmith. And that’s fine, there’s a whole lot of great metal that fits this description; the newest records from Faustcoven and Malokarpatan are two great recent examples of metal that feels more extreme than it necessarily sounds, with melody and tunefulness seemingly just as important as those unholy croaks.
One of the most defining characteristics of Nachash’s music is that, despite the echo-drenched vocals and touches of dissonance all saying “black metal,” there is nary an icy or cold aspect to this album. If anything, it sounds downright warm and welcoming, as if it exists in the air near an early autumn bonfire, and it uses this warmth to deliver heaps of equally welcoming and rockin’ riffs. On the old school side of the band’s influences, it’s easy to hear countless NWOBHM bands through the torrents of machine gun and galloping riffs or the unabashed use of melody. At the other end of the spectrum, there are hints of Czech and Greek black metal, an awful lot of Inquisition in the catchy churning passages, and touches of The Chasm in the slightly proggy, “floaty” riffs.
Another notable aspect of Phantasmal Triunity, and one that should come as no surprise after the previous paragraph, is the bombast. Nachash seems intent on constantly building towards something, or at least crafting the illusion that they’re always building towards something. That a lot of the album feels like stacked overtures could be viewed as both a virtue and a limitation (it’s both), but it certainly helps to craft some anticipation. When there’s some real payoff for this scene setting, the album thrives. “Apex Illuminous,” for example, drops to quiet riffs at one point, building gradually and deftly back up to the full power of previous sections. The beastly “Fleshtemple Incineration,” meanwhile, builds tension through a pretty standard (and great) 6/8 black metal drive before absolutely crushing a stacked, ascending riff pattern (which is soon joined by some of the album’s most effective vocals). It’s some monstrous, time-honored, lightning-right-up-the-tookus heavy metal thunder (or based on the album art, lightning-right-OUT-of-the-tookus).
Even when there is less of a payoff, things don’t exactly drag as much as they reveal a band that could be a bit more efficient in terms of its composition. But thanks to a brisk run time (under 37 minutes), it never begins to wear out its welcome. In the end, Phantasmal Triunity is probably more promising than it is truly excellent, but the riffs within certainly reveal a band that is very comfortable with the deep, long heritage of heavy metal, and ought to appeal to many a fan across the spectrum of that heritage.