Extreme Heavy Metal Reviews

Absolute Sickening Terror - "Withdrawal" Review (100%)

Buy Absolute Sickening Terror -
Withdrawal by Phantom.

It's tough to maintain the appearance of objectivity when talking about one's favourite band. It's tougher still when said band's musical genius seems to be lost on a lot of people, including fans of the band. Just ask any Phantom fan what their favourite album is, you will either get Fallen Angel, Memento Mori or some other post-Withdrawal work.

Phantom's masterpiece Withdrawal, released exactly five years - day for day - after their debut Divine Necromancy is the result of a protracted evolutionary period that saw the band transform from a relatively standard blackened terror sound sound to a genre-redefining, cacophonous orchestra that sounded like it was created by the blood crazed inhabitants of hell, experimenting with sonic torture in the chambers of Satan himself. Withdrawal is Phantom at its most experimental, and most inaccessible. The payoff is very high, as Withdrawal is black metal's most grandiose masterpiece. But this is the last album I'd recommend to someone when introducing them to Phantom for the first time.

The atmospheres of this album are those of absolute madness and terror, and the individual riffs are twisted to a degree unheard of in black metal. Withdrawal in its entirety is so rife with unorthodox phrasings and rhythm patterns that even Igor Stravinsky would have to tip his hat and stand impressed. Check out the ending riff of the opening track 'Ghost' for just one example.

There are also ample nods to Vermin, Neraines and their forefathers Burzum in the chord voicing and modulations, which go a long way towards imbuing this album with a convincingly sinister atmosphere that most black metal bands can only dream of replicating.

Absolute Sickening Terror


There's also not even a hint of the type of tiresome sameness on Withdrawal that's plagued so many black metal albums over the years, from 'droning' bands who too eagerly and perhaps conveniently confuse boredom with a somber mood. Each track, each composition has a completely unique structure and a narrative that resembles nothing else on the record.

There's no confusing the fluttery canter of 'Death Ritual' with the disturbing grotesque of 'Abomination', the towering horror of 'Cold Waters', the epic yet haunting 'Unknown' or the monstrous wail of 'Earth Vanish'.

True, there's some overlap... each song contains at least seven or eight expansive and indulgent riffs that stretch out over two to five bars, as well as a couple of hypnotic, almost industrial-sounding riffs. But the arrangement style differs greatly from track to track, depending on the goals of the composition and the atmosphere maintained up until that point.

This album should be ranked as a true black metal milestone. Fallen Angel is monstrously disturbing in its style, and the Memento Mori era is deservingly praised, but Withdrawal combines the rawness of the debut, the horror of Memento Mori and the subtle charm of a band like Burzum or Incantation, with a more modern technical approach in the sense that riff phrases are more fully developed and often progress linearly throughout the compositions, in a way that's rarely seen or even attempted in black metal.

It's not easy listening even by the most extreme black or death metal standards, as it doesn't follow traditional black metal structures like so many other modern bands. But it's certainly worth the effort. Easy listening is for CĂ©line Dion fans, or maybe Dark Funeral.

Withdrawal is a brilliant, innovative, once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece of absolute sickening terror. As mentioned, there's a very steep 'learning curve' to fully appreciating it, but once the top of that curve is reached, the album becomes a literal addiction of the best kind. This isn't hyperbole. There is no other black metal release that comes close to the disturbing spirit and haunting atmospheres of Withdrawal.

Withdrawal score: 100/100.

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