As a student of biology with a love for evolution, I tend to assign human reactions or preferences to evolutionary necessities and then think about what mechanism could have brought them about. Sort of an amateur’s version of evolutionary psychology. I am normally on a diet, and I blame the evolutionary necessity of needing to cram any fat, salt and sugar into my gullet as fast as I can swallow it. For most of life’s history, NOT doing so was essentially shitting on one of the precious moments when these witheringly rare commodities were available at all. Your body has no idea that, now that they are plentiful, they have become poison.
The sound of a Rolls Royce Merlin or a Pratt and Whitney R-2800 in WWII was both hated by enemies and loved by allied pilots and soldiers. A low, growling, angry sound. Like a lion’s throaty rumble to warn you off its territory. A human confronting that sound is a human confronting their mortality, daring fate.
Death Metal introduced the guitar version of that throaty growl in the form of the Sunlight sound. Entombed and Dismember gained much of their deserved fame from theirs and Tomas Skogsberg’s method of recreating that feral sound—a sound so correct for what death metal is about, that nearly thirty years later bands still use it. And I would say it is because evolution has imbued us with the need to test ourselves against our fears. This is death metal’s main appeal: It is a horror movie for the ears, and therefore our imaginations. And we love horror movies.
Binah uses the sound, the primal, fearful sound of Sunlight and Boss-HM2 derivatives to what must be described as grand effect. They do it by understanding why the sound works – and where. They let chords ring, they stay clear of overly complex riffs and bridges, except when they really want them. They let the sound, with all its texture and dread, course through the triumphant songs they write. They had established on their first album their mastery of death metal’s golden age. On this new album, Phobiate, they create their own golden age.
Why? Everything Ressurecture promised, Phobiate delivers. You can’t have the Sunlight sound without thinking of Entombed and Dismember—that will never change. But while they are referenced here, they are not ghosts. They are architects. Binah is another architect, working with the same materials, producing the same kinds of structures, but with a flair all their own. Their buildings will not be confused with anyone else’s, no matter that it is all just brick and mortar.
Right off the bat Binah delivers an epic grinder with “The Silent Static”, a twelve minute pummeling that extravagantly displays their mastery of the form while pushing the limits of what you can say in a Sunlight track. And it gets…well, not better, but as-gooder from there. “Dream Paralysis” waltzes the death waltz with so much intensity and emotion you want to find a renaissance corpse and start swinging it around the room. “Waves of Defacement” is a straight homage to the elders, while “Transmissions from Beneath” has a strangely 80’s style riff that devolves into a chaotic tentacle-porn of runs and chords before waxing almost Morbid Angel-ic, all bookended with simple picking melodies.
Killing the album off is the pulverizing “Bleaching”, another demonstration of the vast open rhythmic spaces in which the Sunlight sound loves best to roam. Bleak and gigantic, this slow moving monster really drives home the band’s great strength: layered song structure. No single riff or rhythm is all that complicated, but the way they are slathered on top of one another makes massive into gargantuan, and keeps the listener fascinated and invested.
That songstyling is what makes this record worth grabbing, whether you are a fan of the sound or are maybe getting a bit tired of it. The sound is a tool this band uses to great effect, but these compositions would be worth listening to on their own merit. They are varied and thoughtful, and the death purr of the guitars just adds to the overall effect. That sound is part of death metal, for better or worse, like it is part of our DNA to be thrilled/disturbed by it, if you agree with my reasoning above. Whether they are out there or not, we seem to need to be aware of the sound of predators. Binah is there for us.