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Athorn - "Phobia" (CD)

Athorn - "Phobia" CD cover image

"Phobia" track listing:

1. Angel Of The Fall (4:30)
2. Emperor Of Ruins (4:40)
3. Humanize The Demon (5:34)
4. Phobia - Prologue (2:51)
5. Phobia (5:48)
6. After The End (4:37)
7. A Matter Of Time (4:12)
8. From Beyond (4:53)
9. The Ferryman (5:25)
10. Schizophrenia (7:29)

Reviewed by on February 9, 2011

"Athorn can’t find the extremes on 'Phobia' to really get heads bobbing and excitement bubbling."

Out of control subgenre classifications drive people nuts, understandably. So with that in mind – here is one that you may not have heard before – powercore! Taking the bombastic and epic melodies and arrangements of power metal with the production values, attitude, and harsh vocals of ‘core styles, powercore is a fresh new take on stale heavy metal clichés. Or another way to think about it: if you take two often overwrought genres and slam them together, does it negate the mushy sadness or make it four times as bad? Thankfully we have Athorn all set to go, so let’s find out!

The best example of powercore may be the title track and associated prologue. “Phobia – Prologue” is three minutes of sound samples, quiet guitar noodles, and keyboard effects that build but don’t go anywhere. The title track itself starts in the same vein, quiet but this time with vocals, and it too takes a while to get the engine up to full bore. This is a metalcore ballad that builds like a power metal epic, taking the original quiet musings and turning the volume up to eleven. Rating? Eh. It isn’t tough enough to be good ‘core and it doesn’t fly high enough to be good power.

The rest of the album is much of the same. Athorn can’t find the extremes on “Phobia” to really get heads bobbing and excitement bubbling. Vocalist Carsten Frank’s clean croon sounds just like Matthew Barlow’s full-chested bellow, but his harsh growl is pretty bland. Guitarists Stefan Schönebeck and Tobias Liedke sound like they just discovered that down tuning was possible, and most of the impressive intricate work gets lost. “Humanize the Demon” has ‘core down tuned chords on verses and uplifting power melodies in the chorus. The bridge guitar layers are good, but it took me a half-dozen spins to hear more than chugga chugga. Frank too even uses the slightly spoken mode that Barlow loves so much, which melts into a huge solo and the big ending with solos layered over vocals and other stuff.

Highlights include “A Matter of Time” and Sören Becker’s drumming. “A Matter of Time” has Frank’s best harsh vocals (as he imitates Randy Blythe for a surprising change), the hardest driving riff, the best solo, and the most engaging arrangement (it’s a winner!). Becker gets some killer polyrhythms going with his double kick throughout “Phobia.” Closing number “Schizophrenia” is also a pretty choice cut with many of the same characteristics as “A Matter of Time” spread out over an extended (read: power) song structure. But despite the bits where things coalesce (well to be honest, they mostly get more focused, but I’m in a charitable mood), Athorn can’t find the clankers to actually put the post in the pile.

Highs: "A Matter of Time" shows off aggressive riffs and a mean growl together.

Lows: The guitar playing is a muddled mess of downturned riffs trying to play power epics.

Bottom line: "Powercore" band can’t do good ‘core or good power.

Rated 2 out of 5 skulls
2 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)