CD Review

The Sword Volcano Complex – “Phosphorescent”

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

PhosphorescentI came to this review immediately after a rousing and friendly interview with Canadian metal giant, Thor. Given Thor's sword and sorcery-inspired theatrics, it seemed not altogether out of the question to approach a group calling itself The Sword Volcano Complex with the same cheeky but grandiose spirit, given its experimentalist nature. As jaggedly surreal as its name, the best compliment I can pay to Sword Volcano Complex is that it is engaging, interesting and highly unpredictable. Not to say I've finally acquired a taste for this genre, no. Still, credit where it's due; Phosphorescent challenges at every possible turn, opting to inject some grounded reality into its illusory experimentation.

Honeybees Arrive begins promisingly with nice synth syncopation beneath a forceful narration that is sent into a derivative loop on the word "sweetness." Hit and a miss, in other words. The Better Angels of Our Nature features soothing rainforest samples that is not designed to mimic one of those escapist therapy discs; the crackling and snapping sounds, coupled with earthly chimes produce an organic, percussive texture that accent the luxuriant piano and narration. Hit.

The title track has a playful synth march, classical in structure, even with its sharp-nosed beats and breathy panting samples that nearly undo the composition. Of course, in a genre such as this, there are no rules of engagement; attack as the artist sees fit. Nevertheless, a hit. Prepare For Landing proffers random warp beats and echoing hollowness, while Knocking on Heaven's Door regurgitates jangling samples and fusion clangs with streams of ringing and a deranged voice track that is just plain daft.

Sending the Fetch is a neat title, and it has a kaleidoscope of likewise neat melodies that are plundered by throwback sounding tones not unlike Dario Argento's Goblins, and their work on the original Dawn of the Dead score. Falling Cat has an altered voice track that sounds like those wacky elves on the Santa bowling game, if one knows what I'm referring to. For those who do, I dare you not to think “Elf, Elf, Baby!" during this track. The Other Side of the World has a solid bass groove with swooning mantra vocals, making for a noteworthy effect. The track takes on a song personality despite the random noises; World indeed can almost be considered classifiable world music.

Fire! sounds like radio channel changing with a hand wracked by Parkinson's, and oddly takes on the sound of an artificial intelligence lifeform struggling to come online. Spindogspin is very enjoyable with its house digital tribal groove. Hercules 2, unfortunately, is a deluge of jumbled catatonia, while The Neon Man is a swirling, scratchy, spacey dirge.

Bedtime Stories has a charming little opening, coupled by a humorous narration that tinkers with nursery rhymes. Tiger's Milk opens with a familiar hiss-pop sound of a turntable needle finding its way to old wax, releasing an apparent recording of tiger snarls. Pretty cool until the effect is undermined by an unnecessary myriad of noisy coldwave.

Hypnotized (live) has a techno acid groove, alas, with besotted vocals that make it fun yet irritating. Finally, Under the Paw has a refreshing tribal beat which nicely serves the weird random samples of horses whinnying, werewolves howling, bells clanging, and an ominous Dr. Claw-like voice rasping through the remainder of the track. Annoying but oddly curious.

Probably one of the most memorable groups in Triumvirate's stable, The Sword Volcano Complex delivers an excessively complex platter of exigent decadence with Phosphorescent. Not quite Thor's Beastwomen at the Center of the Earth, but they can't all be gems!

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Post: P.O. Box 6254, South Bend, IN, 46660, USA

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