Varian Disaster is a short but sweet auditory soundscape which depicts the screams emanating from those caught within a maniacal war-torn empire. The debut demo is a great taste of the phenomenal material that will come from the group’s future career.
Phalanx is an up-and-coming death metal group from Los Angeles that released their debut demo Varian Disaster back in 2017. While this is undoubtedly old news, their material deserves more attention as it is of high quality and demonstrates the group’s ability to create a defining feeling through their music which few groups can do, especially on their first demo.
The demo itself is well-produced and is of LP quality which makes it an easy listen for those rightfully unwilling to listen to a group’s scratchy and poorly handled early work, which is the type of quality normally associated with demos. The release contains 5 songs which follow a short intro track consisting of an orchestrated medley of samples and guitar riffs. The demo lasts for just over 10 minutes but manages to serve its purpose during its stay.
The group follows an ancient wartime theme with their music. Their name, Phalanx, by definition alludes to a body of protective soldiers armed with shields who serve their empire by protecting certain targets or areas in group formation. The definition implies that the singular infantry form into a mass that’s collective strength surmounts that of the simple addition of the soldiers themselves. In other words, the whole equals more than the sum of all its parts. Coupled with their music, Phalanx paints the landscape of a great-scale war whereby the soldiers involved are harmed equally by their direct opposition and the maniacal rulers of the empires they fight for.
The opening song “Pyrrhic Victory” is the very soundscape for the description written above. “Pyrrhic” refers to the intensive battles won by the Greek king Pyrrhus against the Romans in 279 BC. The war victory was extremely costly for the Greek armies and thousands of lives were lost, to the extent that the term “Pyrrhic” remains a staple of the English (and presumably Greek) language which is used to describe something gained but at the cost of immense amounts of resources.
The track itself offers the listener a soundscape which provides the agonizing but determined screams from a trio of men caught in the midst of an ancient Greek-Roman conflict. That verbal trio consists of Cheera, Lord Spew, and John Townsend who, joined by drummer Steven Hendricks, form Phalanx. This triple vocal inclusion, which is thrown over a barrage of guitar, bass, and drums, is the group’s most redeemable quality. This approach is fairly unique within the metal world and is really the driving force behind Phalanx’s unique style.
This vocal onslaught is demonstrated throughout the demo but is best displayed on the aforementioned track “Pyrrhic Victory”. Each vocalist unleashes their lyrical segments in the form of indecipherable cries of anguish which echo through the music. The singers take their turn for the vocal slot and a variety is given from the nature of the three’s differences in singing styles. One emanates a deeper growl, while another sings with a more central approach on the death metal vocal scale, and the other repeatedly unleashes a higher pitched cry that, in my opinion, hits the hardest because it really protrudes from the music in comparison to the lower growls of the other vocalists. The track really depicts the slow crawl of this phalanx of soldiers who continuously push through the atrocities of war further and further across the battlefield. The deep and trudging rhythm guitar sections resemble these slow movements which, when coupled with the triple vocal usage, brings the listener into this war-torn world that the group is attempting to emulate with their music. Phalanx’s music really takes you somewhere, which is why I’m so enthusiastic about this release.
Varian Disaster is currently being sold on the group’s Bandcamp page with a “name your price” cost. The release is one to pick up for death metal fans and it is an enjoyable listen. Even if the shorter demo format is not your cup of tea, make sure to keep this group on your radar as their upcoming material is very promising if it ends up being comparable to this release.