Recorded, mixed and mastered by Giorgio Barroccu. Photos and artwork by Cesare Bignotti.
Released on Brucia Records on Thursday 30 March 2023.
For fans of The Great Old Ones, Moonreich, Blut Aus Nord
Derhead, the critically acclaimed avant-garde black metal band, is back with their new album, The Grey Zone Phobia (2023). The project was formed in Genoa, Italy in 2001 by Giorgio Barroccu, a multi-instrumentalist musician and founder and co-owner of Brucia Records. The Grey Zone Phobia (2023) is the project’s fifth release overall, but first full-length album.
The album is a meditation on the contrasting nature of our place within the cogwheels of time, leading us to contemplate the contrast between reality and our inner self, and between memories and dreams. The lyrics draw inspiration from various sources, including the work of philosophers such as Henri Bergson, relativity studies, and fuzzy logic. The album is a multifaceted work that does not try to be forcibly eccentric, but flows effortlessly mixing raw and aggressive riffs with the epic grandeur of more sophisticated and slower parts. The album is sure to keep listeners on the edge of their seats for its whole duration.
From its opening discordant riff to its closing scream, this is not a comfortable listen. Neither is it immediately accessible. It is an album that requires you to put in the work, to let the raw chaos wash over you and wait for it to show you its direction. It would be too easy to simply dismiss this as “a lot of noise and shouting”, as my late mother often would dismiss much of my favourite music. This taps into many archetypes of extreme and avant-garde music. Simply sit and experience it—like watching the wildness of a late night storm while safely locked up in your home.
For much of the album, it rages unceasingly. There is a little reprieve, however, in the middle of track 5, “Drops of storm” as the wildness settles creating space for the gentle droplets of an electric guitar. But it doesn’t last and the maelstrom continues.
The closing track, “Containing the whole” (track 6) is the only track that doesn’t race off the blocks in a cloud of anger. It takes its time, builds and even finds a moment or two to find its groove. It’s a raw song, nevertheless, and before long it too loses itself in a confusion of drums, bass and thrashing guitar.
When it finished, the calm silence in my house engulfed me. This is certainly a release that makes its presence known, filling every nook and cranny with its fullness, permeating everything. This is a body of work that reveals as much about itself after it has played as when it is playing.
As I said, this is not an easy album to listen to. It is unsettling. It is disturbing. You definitely need to be in the right mood to listen to this … whatever that mood is. I felt that I had to approach it when I felt positive and strong and just let is ugliness and pain flow around me, observing it at a distance, not allowing it to influence me. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Review score: 60%
Anubi Press contacted me inviting me to preview Derhead’s debut album, thank you. I have no connections to either Anubi Press or Derhead. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review which is pretty cool. Many thanks to Anubi Press, and to Derhead for continuing to create fresh, exciting new music.