Album: Clouds Of Confusion
Label: Hammerheart Records
Genre: Death Metal
Release Date: May 28th, 2023
For Fans Of: Slugdge, Blood Incantation, Carcass
Phlebotomized are an elder death metal band from the Netherlands, and they’re worth paying attention to. Coming after a series of demos and EPs, they released their debut album Immense Intense Suspense in 1994. Outside of possibly being on the short list of best-named death metal albums ever, this was an exciting, fun record that grabs me to this day and that you should absolutely listen to if you haven’t already. After releasing a follow-up three years later, the band promptly disappeared for two decades before starting up again in 2013 like nothing happened. After what seems like forever, Phlebotomized are here to release their fourth full-length release, Clouds Of Confusion. Like everything this band does, this record deserves to turn eyes.
The band sounds older on Clouds Of Confusion, but Phlebotomized’s core approach remains the same: take death metal and make it weird while still coloring within the lines. You aren’t going to find anything boundary-pushing by today’s standards on their releases, but it’s obvious that this group of musicians try to subvert what death metal is usually allowed to be.
With that as a starting point, it’s significant that the first few tracks of Clouds Of Confusion sound like somewhat standard melodic death metal cuts. In 4 time, with non-syncopated (and occasionally boring) drum beats and standard chorus-based structures. “Alternate Universe” in particular would sound at home on an Insomnium-imitator release that had consumed any amount of caffeine in the morning. I don’t know if they started the record this way to prove that they could succeed while making more formulaic death metal, or if they did this to give a starting point for the later songs to crash off the rails while melting the steel behind them. Either way it works fine. This starting suite proves that songwriting trumps song approach any day.
From there on, the album does what Phlebotomized tends to specialize in: Whatever they feel like in any given moment. The songs aren’t particularly dissonant or crunchy, as most exploratory records tend to be in current times. Instead, one repeated melody that gets stuck in my head every time I put this thing on uses tritones (I think) to create a spaced-out, relaxed, and searching sound. The result is solid.The sound is uniquely Phlebotomized, ingrained in death metal history, and still fresh and interesting.
However, I don’t know that the approach will create lasting music. I can appreciate the music in the moment, but it never seems to grab me and hold me captive. That spaced-out melody is nice, but while I’m listening to Clouds Of Confusion I feel fully permitted to zone out and come back as I wish without missing anything important. At times the music seems meandering, at times it’s nice background music, but it’s certainly not an unquestionable presence, something to demand focus, or a sound that’s guaranteed to persevere. Will people still be listening to this in a few decades the way I am listening to Immense Intense Suspense? Maybe. I guess.
As a final point that may be a selling point or a detriment, the production on Clouds Of Confusion fits within the album’s sound almost too well. The band nails the Clouds idea. The music has plenty of space, sounds clear, and the piano lines throughout the record shine. This does result in a sound that might float a bit too much for people who want death metal with teeth.
Clouds Of Confusion is not Phlebotomized’s best record. It doesn’t have to be in order to be worthy of attention and praise. I have some issues with the pacing of the record and think it can blend into the background too well, but there’s something vital and against the dissonant grain that Phlebotomized can get. As the clouds break and the sun comes out, I do feel like I will return to this often. I’d recommend this to fans of death metal who often think it’s a bit stale, and to fans of other genres who wish there was something softer.
- Bury My Heart
- Alternate Universe
- Desolate Wasteland
- Destined To Be Killed
- Pillar Of Fire
- Bury My Heart Reprise
- Death Will Hunt You Down
- A Unity Your Messiah Pre Claimed?
- Dawn Of Simpliciy
- Context Is For Kings (Stupidity And Mankind)
Total Playing Time: 46:54