A seething thunderous brute of an album with raptorial tendencies and deep malicious intensity, Pharmakos the debut album from Italian deathcore metallers Straight On Target is an immense and heavily imposing release. It is also a contagious pleasure which leaves one exhausted from and basking in extreme metal at its best. Using established weaponry for the main, the album stays within already set walls but pushes their limits with compelling and irresistible sounds. It is venomous, violent, and wholly irresistible.
The quintet from Piacenza made their mark with their first EP Mediocritas in 2011, the release earning strong acclaim from fans and media alike. Creating a furnace of sound and energy recalling the likes of Aborted, The Acacia Strain, Whitechapel, and Impending Doom, the line-up of vocalist Andrea Scaglia, guitarists Giulio Castruccio and Daniele Molinari, bassist Nicolò Rossi, and drummer Federico Buzzetti, have let loose a ravenous monster of an album which surely will place the band into the awareness of a wider extreme metal audience. Released via Bakerteam Records, Pharmakos is a thrilling antagonistic confrontation which quite simply is impossible not to be sucked into and thrilled by.
Straight On Target seduces the ear first with Theta, a brief sonic abrasion with a startling ambience and menacing breath. It rubs the senses enough to set them on end before evolving into the rabid intensity of Ostrakon. Beginning with deeply resonating rhythms and cranky riffs the song slowly spreads its muscular arms to surround and immerse the ear intently. Once the colossal synapse chewing vocals of Scaglia enter into the midst of the brewing storm, the guitars, bass, and drums raise the temperature further and the impending assault to greater heights. The track never quite takes off in to an all-out assault though and is all the better for that, but instead leaves on a sonic acid of sound which is equally painful and inviting.
The monstrous Demonized next torments and ravishes the ear with a ferocity to scorch the hair from the skin with barbaric blast beats and debilitating rhythmic brutality at the core of its fire. There is nowhere to hide as the track scars and violates every inch of thoughts and senses whilst the body itself is treated to a furnace of aggression. Within the tempest though the band unleashes grooves and addictive melodic teasing which are quite delicious. Arguably this is the template for most of the songs on the album but it is a contagion which rewards as much as it eagerly destroys and one you just do not want to end.
The likes of the brilliant Wake the Apathetic and equally impressive Dreadful Eyes incite an insatiable need and desire for more of the unforgiving corrosion. The first of the pair has an insidious groove which emerges from time to time from within a brawling storm of riff borne intensity and rhythmic turbulence. It is again irresistible and lights up a track which already is perpetually shifting and energising the heart. The second squeals and rampages like a stampede of hellish boars, its brute force and satanic air a captivation which feeds the primal needs of all whilst igniting destructive propensity. If the release had finished right here the recommendation to check out the album would have topped the scale but with the continuing might and excellence within each and every track to come complimenting those mentioned Pharmakos is easily the first essential extreme metal album of the year.
The tribalistic Initiation which unexpectedly brings thoughts of Lord Of The Flies to the fore, the bone crushing and breath sapping He Spreads Hypocrisy, and the carnally coloured Synesthesia all continue the staggering strength and quality of the album whilst closing track Palms Leaves Readers is a final creative fit of rage and violent belligerence. It is an epic end to an epic album, a release which leaves you gleefully shell shocked.
To be over fussy there is a similarity across the release which is noticeable but to be honest unimportant within the striking impressive throat of the release and only adds to the depth of the density and intensity of Pharmakos. It is an outstanding album and marks Straight On Target as a band you should know about.
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