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Phlebotomized - Clouds Of Confusion review

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Band: Phlebotomized
Album: Clouds Of Confusion
Release date: May 2023

01. Bury My Heart
    1 - Cloud 1: Bury My Heart
02. Alternate Universe
    1 - Cloud 2: Choices Determine Fate
    2 - Cloud 3: Alternate Universe
    3 - Cloud 4: Are You Ready?
    4 - Cloud 5: Proper Course Of Action
03. Lachrimae
04. Desolate Wasteland
05. Destined To Be Killed
06. Pillar Of Fire
    1 - Pillar Of Fire
    2 - The Unique Agony Of Uncertainty
07. Bury My Heart Reprise
08. Death Will Hunt You Down
09. A Unity Your Messiah Pre Claimed
10. Dawn Of Simplicity
11. Context Is For Kings (Stupidity And Mankind)

Comeback albums generally get a lot of attention because listeners are so starved for new material from a band, that the mere concept of a new album from said band can feel surreal. The real challenge is following up a comeback album to show that you're here to stay beyond the mere appeal of having returned. Phlebotomized are here to stay.

First off, I was pretty sure that "phlebotomized" was a made up word that sounded cool but upon further Googling, it actually means "withdraw blood from (a person) by surgically opening or puncturing a vein, historically for the purpose of bloodletting". The more you know.

Phlebotomized were that kind of kvlt death metal band that didn't get enough of the attention they deserved during their time, but have been retrospectively been acknowledged for how ahead of their time their more avant-garde and progressive take on death metal was. Though it's not like in 1994 death metal wasn't already in full visionary mode, Immense Intense Suspense still stands out for its intricate melodies, doom and symphonic injections, and a more progressive take on the sound. 1997's Skycontact would take things even further into the avant-garde, being the overlooked album of an already overlooked band, however that was sadly a farewell album and the last we'd hear from Phlebotomized in a while. I do hope that Clouds Of Confusion is the last album in whose review I feel the need to go over the band's early history, as this should hopefully be increasingly closer to common knowledge in metal lore by the time they roll out another one.

What's more relevant to our discussion is how early Phlebotomized became the Phlebotomized of today. With newfound appreciation of their works floating around, the band reunited in 2013, and they could very well have remained a legacy act. I'm very skeptical of bands where one member suddenly takes the entire band and continues to use their name to make new music, so when Phlebotomized molded its lineup in 2017 around founding guitarist and last remaining original member Tom Palms, 2018's Deformation Of Humanity had a lot to live up to, and it especially had to make up for its cover art. It was a success, and 2021's Pain, Resistance, Suffering showed that it wasn't just a one-off thing, but an EP isn't a proper follow-up the same way a full length album is, so the true test is nailing Clouds Of Confusion. If the finally decent artwork is to be believed, that's a good sign.

Finally getting to the music, a lot of what Phlebotomized do now has been ingrained in the progressive and doom death metal book so it no longer feels as visionary as it did back in the 90s, and some of it feeling akin to a time capsule to the time. None of this is in a bad way, since none of it feels very dated and out of touch, but a reworking of a sound from that era instead of trend chasing to bring the sound up to date. The production is obviously more on par with the times, it's just something about the songwriting and how, even with the aforementioned normalization of the prog metal quirks, they still feel quirky by these standards. There's just something slightly off-kilter about those synth melodies, not overtly, but they do creep under your skin, especially given how high they are in the mix.

Phlebotomized were never pure death metal, so it's not surprising how Clouds Of Confusion delves much more with its melodies into prog and doom, to the point where the growled vocals feel like the only stable anchor into death metal, as much as I find them to be the most uninteresting part of their sound. The riffing obviously has plenty of traces, and I'd argue that the riffing would be the main highlight of the record if it weren't for the synth melodies, so the band really benefits from having that many guitarists in the band. Still there are moments like the opening of the closer that feel very focused on giving a more straight-forward death metal pummeling, which contrasts nicely with the other elements of their sound. At less than 50 minutes, there isn't much in terms of bloat on Clouds Of Confusion, and the band manages to fill that time with a lot of dynamic songwriting and neat contrasts of sounds and elements.

Bottom line is, there's more than enough proof of vitality in this neo-Phlebotomized incarnation, Deformation Of Humanity wasn't lightning in a bottle, and there's no sophomore slump to be had in Clouds Of Confusion. Quite the opposite, I'd argue this does a better job than Deformation Of Humanity at cementing the band's newfound position.

Written on 06.06.2023 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.


Comments: 4   Visited by: 70 users
06.06.2023 - 15:45
Rating: 9

One of the better albums of 2023 for sure, time shall tell how far up the list will they climb till the end of the year. thanks for the review Radu !
07.06.2023 - 20:32

What a great effort.
10.06.2023 - 10:09

I'll let you in on a little secret: almost every English word that has "ph" instead of "f" in it has a Greek origin. In the case of Phebotomized, "phleba" (φλέβα) means "vein" and "tomi" (τομή) means "cut/incision".

This album is even better than the previous one for me, too. Like you, I love the synths and how they are used, but I actually also really like the vocals. I find that pure and deep death metal growls go well with death metal music that is more "light", proggy, and experimental.
18.08.2023 - 17:19
Rating: 7

Nice review and agree with it except that I liked the growls also. Great album.
In the beginning I was made of clay. Then I bit the apple and they changed me to metal 🤘

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