PARANOID VISIONS – HALO OF PHLEGM (The Vinyl Countdown Part 4 – Refreshed Exposures) (FOAD 2022)


Another worthy artifact from the ongoing preservation of the Paranoid Visions archives – I remember Halo Of Phlegm being mentioned in various fanzine interviews way back when as the title of a forthcoming album that never quite materialised. Instead, as the band reconstituted in the early 1990s, two releases were issued as part of a highly productive run of cassettes on FOAD – The first of these, Tripping The Live Disaster, compiled a bunch of outtakes, alternate versions and rarities – The second cassette, Immature Recollections, was a sort of reworking of this material, mixed in with several new tracks.

Other tracks from this batch have cropped up from time to time – Notably, three were rerecorded and included on the band’s 40 Shades Of Gangreen album in 2007, so it’s a creative pool that’s been tapped into several times. The sleeve suggests that these tracks all stem from 88-89 and the difference in production across the album indicates several different recording sessions cobbled together ­– With that in mind, it’s hard to know if this is historically what was intended as the Halo Of Phlegm album or whether certain liberties have been taken in assembling the best version of a great lost album. Not that any of this matters really, the band is entitled to do whatever it wants with its history and the fact remains that this is a collection of recordings from that gaping hole where the next album should have been.

What’s probably most fascinating about this release is the order of material ­– Presented up front is a side of bleak immersive tracks, none of which pander to any notion of stomping punk. Halo Of Phlegm (Part 1 & 2), Afraid Of Life, AIDS and House The Seed all have that tinge of dark experimentation present on parts of the very early PV cassette releases, except that by 88-89, the band is infinitely more capable of translating these foreboding post-punk ideas into fully formed music. This is an engaging and creatively rich sequence of tracks that kind of make me wish the whole album was like this… disquieting and hostile to expectation…

But there’s a lot to be said for the flipside of more identifiably punk tracks too – I’ve always loved Cycles Of Christ. This was my favourite track from the Immature Recollections tape with its memorable melodic leads over the chorus and rasping vocal delivery – It always seemed like a defining sonic bridge between late 80’s PV and the more polished After The Faction era stuff that came afterwards.

All of subsequent tracks on this side – Lies/Revolution, Greytown, Rock n roll n Revolution, TV Ads, Silent Nights, Forever Winter have been well served by re-recordings or compilations over the years, and will be widely recognisable. Maybe over-familiarity is what makes the other side of the record more engaging to me, but these recordings complete the era-specific package and at least two of the tracks make a case for their creative importance to the vast output of the band. Forever Winter, in particular, still holds as arguably the strongest track of this era. It had a long life in the PV live set and I’m pretty sure this is a different version to the recording that first surfaced on the Immature Recollections cassette… maybe it’s an earlier recording??? … who knows.

I haven’t seen the enticing glow in the dark vinyl and neon cover! yet as it’s not officially out until March 17, but this is one of a continued line of exceptionally presented releases from Paranoid Visions that strives to bring order to a sometimes-chaotic archive of recordings. Hopefully the future holds a reasonably comprehensive look at those early cassettes too!!

Get it here…

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