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HMS Music Spotlight

I love it when a new band is formed; especially when some of the members come from a pedigree of quality other bands. The new band in question is known as Phear and when a distinguished vocalist like Pat Mulock (who sang in both Rampage and Eidolon) joins up - you know this is going to get interesting. Not to mention drummer Chris Lewis and guitarist Tyson Emanuel (both from Rampage) adding into the mix and second guitarist Graham Stirrett (A Sin For A Prayer) coming in as well to round things out.

What makes their debut so special is the incredible list of guest players coming in to help the guys bang out 13 tracks of pure insanity! I won’t name them all, but musicians like Glen Drover, Kelly Kereliuk and Bjorn Strid join the fray and provide significant contributions to Phear’s core sound. Of course not to take away from the actual band members either, but I must say I was mightily impressed with this list.

So let’s get down to the actual songs themselves. Obviously there are some interesting comparisons to other bands like Voivod, Nevermore and definitely Iron Maiden – but to say they are mere copies of these bands would be so wrong. If I had to categorize their sound it would be firmly placed in the thrash/power genre, but is that even fair to say these days. Obviously when you get right down to it metal is metal and you are getting that in spades here with this debut.

Right from the get go the eerie tones of “Regan’s Dream” start us off with a cool beginning before ripping into a track with an odious edge, and supported with spectacular riffing. What’s neat about this is former Rampage members Rick Reid and Stan Miczek coming in for guest support. It’s like having a mini reunion and that’s a cool fact if you followed the band back in the late 90’s. I should also point out Mulock’s shrill screams and the growls of guest vocalist Jon Howard (from Threat Signal) help give this number an extra kick to the groin! The next track is arguably the catchiest and will probably draw out your attention immediately. “Don’t Scream” is a nifty little number that reminds me of mid-period Iron Maiden and definitely proves Mulock’s mettle as a premier vocalist. Again there is some nice quest support from Reid, Mizcek and Howard, so you can’t go wrong here.

The next few tracks are all solid numbers with expert melody blended into the heaviness. I liked “Fallen” for the meaty tones and found the next track “Heaven” falling back into the later period Iron Maiden mode in terms of pace and length; not a bad number, but just not grabbing my attention as much. Although, “Delusions” quickly returns to that dark melodic tone found on the first two tracks and bolstered by Howard’s growls and guest vocals from Soliwork’s Bjron “Speed” Strid. I should also mention Kelly Kereliulk’s (Prismind) guest solo stands out here for me too.

Written by: Kenneth Gallant
9 out of 10

The later songs on this disc are all accomplished numbers. Take for instance “Proud” which is again another catchy number and jammed with a lively riff or two. “The Drowning Man” returns us to that familiar Maiden template with some quality rhythm guitar and an incredible solo that made the song even better than it started out. When we got into “Until You Die” I nearly fell off my seat because of the speed mostly, but definitely in lieu of the thrash beat that precedes it. There’s also a slight metalcore underpinning to it but I prescribe that to Jon Howard’s growls mostly. You also get some groove melded into this; most notably on “Motives Unknown” and another quality quest solo provided from Kelly Kerelieuk.

I did enjoy “Bloodline” for its overall heaviness, but loved the tribal drumming that opens “In the Name Of”. I started to recall Grip Inc. here for a brief moment, but once the track got going you knew right away this was going to be a winning number for Phear. The riffing is meaty and coupled with that dizzying solo that goes off into a short prog-like interlude to close it out was a neat idea. The final song is probably the strongest composition on the entire album and thanks to guest solo contributions from Glen Drover and Kelly Kereliuk – “Sea of Lies” is the most unique piece for my tastes. Again Jon Howard provides some serviceable growls and Mulock delivers a slight rap undertone in his approach to the chorus, adding a dash of originality. I should also mention the bonus track called “Snap” which lays on some heavy groove, but is essentially a short instrumental number.

On a whole though, Insanitarium is an exciting debut largely based upon the band’s past associations and multi-layered musical approach. There’s a dark edge to their sound and I love the sense of melody coupled with Mulock’s macabre lyrics. If you are seeking a metal album that is fresh and daring at the same time, then go out and purchase this album. I can guarantee Phear will take you on a musical journey you won’t ever forget!

For more info on Phear you can check them out on Facebook.

Kenneth Gallant, HMS

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