In my opinion, the best kind of music out there is the kind that makes me want to get off my ass and make some music of my own. It has nothing to do with the genre of music, or the production quality, nothing of that sort, it’s just something about the music that inspires me. There is no specific formula for this, it could be any sort of music, from Lucero or The Hold Steady to Vanna or The Chariot, anything really. When I listen to music that inspires this urge to write music, the music becomes a catalyst; I look over at my guitars, and I feel like I should be doing that, I should be making music like they do. Bands like this make music seem so simplistically brilliant, they can make music that is at the top of their class, but make it accessible enough to trick me into thinking I could write something as good. It’s this intangible quality that separates simply a good band, from the true professionals. Not many bands are capable of creating music on this level, music that not only is enjoyed by countless people, but manages to inspire as well. Another great example of such a band is Phinehas, a relatively new metal band from California, strictly speaking, they aren’t doing anything ground breaking; it’s really just metalcore, and there is only so much variation within that genre. They’re a good band, but they aren’t without their faults, there are a few screams on the album that I felt could have used another couple takes in the studio in order to perfect, but to me, that really adds to the feel of this band. And when it comes down to it,, they’re just a very solid metalcore band. But there is something a bit more to them, after listening to their debut full length, thegodmachine, I picked up my guitar, and started playing around with a few metal riffs that I wrote awhile ago, and hadn’t even thought about in ages. I didn’t notice what was happening at first, I thought I was just aimlessly messing around, but then I realized it was an after-effect of the Phinehas album, which is a very impressive feat.
I’ve always been a big fan of thrashy metalcore, growing up in DC, Darkest Hour were the hometown heros, and they sort of define the genre, at least in my admittedly biased opinion. So the genre is more or less engrained in my musical tastes forever. Now, this isn’t just sped up metalcore, in the vein of August Burns Red, it’s not as polished, and that’s a good thing, Phinheas has a much dirtier tinge to their music, which adds an extra degree of emotion and dynamics that are noticeably absent from so many contemporary metal bands. Songs like “A Pattern In Pain” showcase this gritty metal sound perfectly, the bridge is very clean and sparse instrumentally speaking, but it’s layered with strained, dirty vocals, creating an excellent juxtaposition, and maintaining the metal tones, while their instrumentals lose a bit of their weight for the lighter bridge. Not to mention the flawless clean vocals, and the seriously impressive guitar work throughout the entire song. It is excellent proof that this band is far from another superficial metal band, they have some very impressive talent that most musicians would kill for. “The Wishing Well” is another song that goes against traditional metal conventions, the entire song acts as a sort of emotional build up, resulting in a cathartic release at the songs climax about half way into the song. It all seems so simple, which is precisely why I feel like I could write something like that, but in all honesty, these are really unique approaches to this sort of music.
These days, metalcore is pretty much metalcore, there are slight varying details that distinguish a good band from a bad band, but I’m sure there are people out there that cant really tell the difference. That said, while subtle, it’s those little details that make all the difference and those bands that are missing those elements aren’t going to last very long. Phinehas, on the other hand, have proven that they have what it takes, and do so with just their debut album. They have room to grow, but in my opinion they have that intangible quality that so many bands lack, which, when combined with a group of seriously talented musicians, creates a very impressive complete package. Now, if only I had the talent to write some songs like this.
Review written by: Michael Hogan