Leon : I hadn’t heard of the Austrian band Phi before I received their newest album ‘Cycles’, yet this group has been around for twelve years already. In 2007 Phi released their first demo and soon more releases would follow, in the following years they released three albums, an EP, and a live recording. Until now the band has released a full-length album every two years, for ‘Cycles’ a bit more time was needed than their last record ‘Now The Waves Of Sound Remain’, which dates from 2014. From what I understand the delay was caused by bandleader Markus Bratusa, who accidentally cut himself while cooking. Not very smart.
The delay has actually been a good thing, the sound of the band has seriously improved since ‘Now The Waves Of Sound Remain’. Not only did the music develop, also the production has made some serious steps, this record sounds a lot better! Phi isn’t the most innovative band in the genre, the music is describable as a mixture between OSI and Leprous. Especially in the softer parts of the music the vocals remind me a lot of OSI, it’s also where the vocals of Bratusa impress the most. In the louder parts the vocals are fine but are not as distinctive as in the calmer parts. The strongest moments of the album are the rhythmic yet atmospheric parts where drummer shows off his double pass skills, supported by the staccato guitars of Bratusa and Stevan Helige, and bass guitars of David Loimer. Even here the band isn’t very innovative, bands like Opeth have preceded them, but it sure does sound good. I can’t say anything negative about the musicians, every single one of them performs really well and understands how to play their instrument. There are some very impressive guitar solos on there, technical but also played with feeling, very cool. There’s actually nothing on the album that isn’t good.
But, I do miss something. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough. Phi has everything that a band needs to grow to become a force to be reckoned with, but they’re not there yet, The music could’ve used a bit more balls, they could’ve taken more chances. I don’t feel they took a lot of risk and stayed on the beaten path, as much as is possible in this genre. Some more contrast between softer and harder parts might’ve done it for me. In any case, with ‘Cycles’ Phi has put themselves on my radar. This is a band to keep your eye on because we will be hearing more from these Austrians. Phi grows with every album, so that should mean that the next one will be an amazing record.