Means of Existence
Ok, so 22 Random Acts of Violence and Cruel didn’t light my fire, but I submit that Phobia are likely America’s greatest gutter grind band. Where the earliest British grind was hopped up hardcore and continental Europeans trended toward a sleeker, more refined attack, it was that initial wave of Americans who were responsible for the burliest, street level grindcore and Phobia lead that pack.
While plenty of pixels have been spilled in praise of Phobia’s awesome debut, Return to Desolation, Means of Existence’s tighter, more visceral attack has always had the pride of place in my heart, partly for being my first Phobia record. It all starts with Paul Miner’s engineering and the band’s production efforts. Means of Existence sounds huge, elephantine, dinosauric, colossal, cyclopean even. Everything is panned to the lower registers and you can practically feel the reverberations coming off Steve Burda (guitar) and Luis Pereya’s (bass) amps. It’s a monstrous, violent, physical wall of rough faced-brick grating across exposed flesh. Shane McLachlan spits and snarls a litany of the world’s sins, his righteous indignation elevating him to the post of pitiless judge, unsympathetic jury and enthusiastic executioner. Backing it all up are John Haddad’s steam hammer blasts.
Means of Existence is From Enslavement to Obliteration filtered through Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Response’s recording session. “Scars” stalks your stereo like a caged feral animal biding its time until a careless zoo keeper forgets to lock the dog. Much mauling will ensue. The spiraling, sample-heavy “Snail” is yet another fine example of the Apocalypse Now principle of metal.
Two labels have fallen out from under this album, and it and its successor, Serenity Through Pain, are both currently out of print, which is fucking travesty because this is a looser, less polished Phobia than what you’ll hear on the Willowtip albums. There’s a sense of impending calamity and danger you just don’t get from the current generation of super clean, click tracked precision of modern production values and I think we’re all the poorer for it.