If you were a stateside tape-trading fiend in the early ’90s, chances are you might have had your hands on some demos by those pernicious Pennsylvanians, Goreaphobia. Based on the strength of the demo cuts and the Omen of Masochism single, it must have seemed like Goreaphobia were poised to claim lordship in the underground along with their more famous, “-ation”-suffixed regional brothers. Circumstances fell through, however: frontman Chris Gamble couldn’t hold down a steady lineup, and so the band pretty much lapsed into dormancy as Gamble concentrated his efforts with black metal act Blood Storm. But now after almost 20 years of neglect, Goreaphobia has been resurrected with the help of longtime guitarist Alex Bouks and ex-Incantation drummer Jim Roe. The subsequent release of Mortal Repulsion doesn’t just mark a much anticipated comeback–it’s actually Goreaphobia’s first ever studio album!
The old Goreaphobia material exemplifies the classic Northeastern style of death metal, which is to say: severely downtuned guitars hurling tidal waves of atonal sludge over an unrelenting and yet complexly patterned rhythmic base. So, there wasn’t too much separating Goreaphobia from the iconic bands like Incantation, but in the face of all that sinister riffcraft, it’s really a minor critique. With Mortal Repulsion, though, it’s clear that Goreaphobia went all the way back to the drawing board to re-evaluate their old formula–they seem to intuitively know that a “business as usual” approach tends to become a beeline to Mediocrity-land.
This time, their familiar vomitous sound is lent more clarity and depth as the band demonstrates a wiser understanding of composition. They ambitiously pursue the epic with lengthy tracks like “The Inevitable Punishment”, but even the more curt songs are peculiarly arranged and prove to be very memorable: “Grave Plagued Planet” sounds like a catchy ballad from Hell that Danzig could’ve written if he ever got into death metal, and “A Grievous Curse” resembles a schizoid disincarnation of something off Gorguts’ Considered Dead. The black metal influence owing to Gamble’s involvement in Blood Storm also factors heavily in this album, imbuing it with the same dark atmosphere found on early Norwegian death metal releases such as Darkthrone’s Soulside Journey and Cadaver’s …In Pains; it might seem like a crazy comparison, but makes total sense after hearing how “Amulet of Damnation” suddenly descends into tremolo-strummed ethereality.
If this interview with Alex Bouks is anything to go by, Goreaphobia are now here to stay for the long run: they’ve finally been granted a harmonious lineup, and intend to reclaim their rightful place as a Northeastern death metal institution.
For more info: This marks the third and final installment of the “Best Comeback Albums of 2009” series; for first place, see the review for Beherit’s Engram; for second place, see the review for Asphyx’s Death…The Brutal Way.
Click the following link to buy Mortal Repulsion from Amazon.