We are told from a young age that we can “move mountains” because “the sky’s the limit”, but rarely do we ever achieve such heights. Instead, such motivational idioms become short-lived dreams as we shroud ourselves in limitations. We draw lines in the sand, borders around countries, and erect figurative and literal walls around ourselves. Over time, we dismiss the driving urge to fit outside the box as childish, and we become eager to fit into the imprisoning walls of some form of normality. Some of us will toe the line; some will gaze wistfully at it; some will settle for less. However bleak this may sound, there still exists a small few who never cease in striving to step over the line, and Prophasis has joined their ranks. Their debut release, Boundaries, takes leaps and bounds, pushing through previously set limits and setting a new standard that others will be hard-pressed to match.
Kicking off this album is “Presage”, a blistering track packed with relentless breakdowns that will shake the earth beneath your feet. An eerie, distorted, industrial intro will have you shaking with anticipation through a steady escalation of tumultuous layered effects, suspenseful sliding strings, and pulsating percussive elements. This fast-encroaching intro finally caves in to an immediate assault of heavy riffs, a haunting melodic overlay, driving percussion, and low growls. A brilliant display of footwork from drummer Brad Wickham perfectly matches fast-paced riffs, spastic melodic solos, and discordant overlays from guitarist Cody Landers. A bone-crunching breakdown wreaks havoc on your ears with a combination of percussive bells and an undertone of heavy, assertive riffs. Following this path of destruction is an extremely brief, ethereal interlude led by gentle reverbed strumming and a vocal harmony of cleans and mid screams from vocalist Alan Ervin that gradually delves back into a slamming “thrash-and-burn” delivery of melodic, lightning-fast solos and crushing riffs and breakdowns.
The torrent of heavy instrumentation displayed in “Presage” flows seamlessly into the next pulverizing track, “Allegiance,” in which an unwavering display of ferocious breakdowns will hit you with enough force to shatter your ribcage. Landers’ grooving, pitch bent heavy riffs are intermittently met with bursts of short melodic and discordant arias before delving into fierce melodic solos that are matched by relentless riffage and reciprocated by percussive bells. Drummer Brad Wickham displays an enormous amount of instrumental prowess with brilliant cymbal play and precisely crafted hits and kicks. Ervin delivers a brilliant display of brutal low, mid and high screams and utilizes split-scream harmonies for an overall crushing vocal delivery. A rage-inducing, sliding breakdown will savagely tear at your eardrums with a disgusting amount of force that can easily rival a volcanic eruption. You are guaranteed to see red in this unabating display of absolutely ruthless instrumentation.
While every single track on this album stands out in terms of instrumentation, individuality, and continuity, an honorable mention is at least fair for the explosive track that is “Exodus Of Rationality.” Slightly-gentler melodic riffs suddenly turn to violent bursts of chugging and ear-shattering breakdowns. Wickham displays the most intense footwork in this track, delivering a seemingly unending crushing intensity with every hit, kick and crash. Landers has this immaculate talent of weaving together fast-paced, insanely fierce riffs with gentle, slower, haunting melodic arias – and the meshing of instrumental styles is well-matched and successfully layered by the rest of the band members. The effect of this meshing lulls you into false senses of security and then quickly reintroduces your face to the concrete-like instrumentation of relentless, murderous breakdowns. Bassist Ryan Katka introduces groovy, crushing bass riffs in this track and audibly leads an impressive wave of assaulting, border-line sadistic breakdowns.
Another honorable mention is “Propaganda”, a track that is seething with forthright anger in every verse and riff. Persistently vicious riffage backed by intense percussive elements will bear down on you with the collective force and weight of an avalanche. Surprising bursts of melodic arias flourish and explode in the midst of tirades of pulverizing breakdowns from Landers. Ervin spares no technical expense, displaying his vocal prowess in absolutely stunning clean vocals and a ferocious onslaught of growls, mids, highs, and split scream harmonies.
This explosive album ends with “Obsidian”, a brooding track that is laden with writhing riffs and roaring breakdowns. Rushes of thundering, sliding riffs collide with ever-present undertones of rolling ambiance and simple, haunting notes overtop the deafening riffage and percussion. Intermittent, fast melodic arias and licks break the surface before churning back into waves of lacerating riffs. Harsh screams from Ervin and guest vocalist Jake Wolf of Reflections build layers of ravaging intensity within the already pulverizing instrumentation. Steadily growing undertones of layered ambiance and effects gradually overtake the heavy riffage for a brief moment and slowly fade out into a false-ending. Note the false-ending, which actually leads into one final rage-inducing, tibia-shattering, curb-stomping, merciless assault of breakdowns, which Prophasis cruelly allows to quickly fade-out to ensure and instill a Stockholm Syndrome-esque burning desire for more. You will beg. You will plead. You will cry and for one more, just one more minute of brutal instrumentation and slaying vocal delivery. Alas, your cries will not be heard, as the music swiftly fades away. You will be left dazed, aching, and shaking in the resulting silence at the end of this album.
Overall, Prophasis has crafted a spectacular, everlasting album that redefines what it means to be boundless. Where most bands merely toe the line, Prophasis has leapt far over it, pushing through every barrier and tearing through every limit to raise the standards to a new high. The fluidity at which this album progresses is astounding – each track masterfully flows into one another, yet still maintains their own aggressive individuality. Not a single note, kick, hit, crash, or scream is wasted throughout the duration of Prophasis’ onslaught of persistently heavy delivery. The absolutely stellar instrumentation and pristine continuity of relentless, thunderous breakdowns bears enough energy and force to shake down the highest mountains. Prophasis’ Boundaries is a truly limitless, flawless masterpiece. (Katt Hass)
For Fans Of: Thy Art is Murder, After the Burial, Chelsea Grin