Small But Mighty PHILMharmonics
If you didn’t know that the drummer in PHILM was Slayer’s legendary Dave Lombardo, then you wouldn’t know the drummer was Dave Lombardo. On Harmonic, the debut of his side project originally conceived in 1995, the famous freneticist abandons the huge drum kit and the multi-stanza fills in favor of more interesting, though no less energetic, rhythms. Add singer/guitarist Gerry Nestler (prog metal group Civil Defiance) and bassist Francisco “Pancho” Tomaselli (current bassist for classic rock/funk outfit War), and the expectations for this power trio are unknowable.
The end result can be described as “prog grunge” (though Tomaselli calls their sound “novo punk”). The rawness of the guitars and bass with the rolling, deep snare sound bring to mind early Mudhoney, best evidenced on “Mild.” Nestler’s natural, emotional vocals are reminiscent of Sebadoh’s more rocking moments. At times you can feel Nestler’s spit coming out of the speakers. The trippier interludes, such as the middle of “Exuberance,” are self-indulgent but impressive considering the sounds are made by only three instruments.
There are some great grooves created by PHILM. “Amoniac” has an infectious bass line, as well as some impressive percussion in the middle. Album closer “Meditation” is more post-punk than grunge, employing the dynamic ebbs and flows of early Rollins Band or Fugazi. One thing is certain: PHILM is not a thrash or speed-metal band, despite the pedigree of the drummer. Clearly, Lombardo has been thinking about this project for over a decade-and-a-half. What’s less clear is if PHILM is one-and-done or has a future. The “joy of playing” comes across in Harmonic, and it’s a fun listen as well.