By Thor
The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Back in 1990 when George H. W. Bush was king, “Morning in America” had worn out its welcome.  The gluttonous corporate chickens hatched by Reaganomics in the 1980’s had started coming home to roost, taking a toll on the American Middle Class.  Iraq invaded Kuwait which gave America the justification to go play war with the mechanized by-products of the cold war military industrial boondoggle.  Meanwhile, the rest of us slid into a recession.
It was the genesis of these events that had inspired hardcore punk a decade earlier.  And when hardcore punk faded away around the same time Reagan was gearing up for a second term, a new form of angry, anti-establishment and politically provocative music known as grindcore began smashing its way into existence.  Formed in 1990, Orange County California’s Phobia was among the first American examples of the new hardcore-punk-on-steroids.  We all know how the sociopolitical winds have blown since the first Bush presidency and that’s why 20 years later Phobia is still here, wielding “Unrelenting” – a new album of some of most furious, fast and angry music to ever make its way to my ears.
“Unrelenting” is 17 tracks long and, staying true to grind conventions, only lasts around 10 minutes or so.  It’s immediately apparent that Phobia is exactly what they are: A band that has been playing this style of music for a long time.  Phobia confidently relies on their playing and their compositions to convey ostensible chaos, anger, and ferocity rather than relying on production gimmicks such as an abundance of distortion and over amplification to achieve their dissonance and aggression.  Phobia’s clean and clear production approach results in very listenable grind, but grind that will unmistakably kick your fucking ass.
Vocalist Shane McLachlan uses a nice contrast of big, beat down-style vocals and classic grindcore screaming.  His style is similar to that of Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway, but less guttural, more punk, and easily as pissed off.  The musical foundation, whipped into a frenzy by drummer Brian Fajardo, bassist Calum Mackenzie, and guitarist Steve Burda, features lots of punk-derived, blast beat-laden fury with a few ominous and doomy passages interspersed throughout for good measure.  Phobia executes their brand of grind with unabashed violence and precision.
As long as there are corrupt people, systems, and governments out there, music will always expose it to varying degrees.  Despite how shitty things seem right now, the glass-half-full position for me is that I get to listen to bands such as Phobia as a result.  I’m down with what they have to say, but the way they deliver that message is hands down as good as it gets.  If you like grindcore, hardcore, crust, crossover thrash, etc., or you’re just fucking mad at the world, Phobia’s “Unrelenting” is the perfect musical sustenance – short and stripped down with nary a morsel of unnecessary fat to be found.