Review Summary: These Norwegian cello toting fiends like their darkened extreme metal brutally pretentious, their women bounded by leashes, and hate the big guy upstairs.
To be honest I wasn’t particularly impressed by Pantheon I’s debut album The Wanderer And The Shadow. The idea of creating highly polished melodic black metal in the vein of Old Man’s Child and throwing a cello into the mix sounded like catastrophic accident waiting to happen. Yet I still found the concept interesting enough to give “The Wanderer And The Shadow ” a try. Unfortunately it proved to a dull listening experience marred by predictable songwriting, over slicked aggression, and a mismatched inclusion of a cello. A mother f-ing cello. Well, two years later, the Oslo based black metal band has returned with a new album entitled “Worlds I Create” and surprisingly it’s not bad. Pantheon I have significantly improved in several key departments where they previously failed at in 2007. Although not without it‘s flaws, Worlds I Create is an entertaining release that most extreme metal fans should be able to appreciate.
Pantheon I still play aggressive melodic black/death metal similar to Naglfar, Mirrorthrone, and Old Man’s Child but have steadily improved upon their songwriting abilities to include weaving textures and creative arrangements through an aggressive template. Starting with the cello. Julianne Kostol’s playing has improved tenfold. Instead of sounding out of place to fill some pretentious fantasy of the band’s chief songwriter, her playing actually develops a sound dynamic between melody and heaviness with I suppose a new found progressive edge. The harsh/mellow transitions are more fluid and less disjointed resulting in stronger individual songs. Also worth mentioning are the sparse acoustic interludes and sythesizer flourishes that helps freshen an otherwise tremolo picking and blast beat oriented template.
Vocally, Andre Kvebek (formerly of 1349) is a talented vocalist and is one of the album‘s strong points. Alternating between throaty growls and a beastly roar, he brings a whole new meaning to pretentious brutality. With song titles like “Serpent Christ” and “Burn The Cross” it’s safe to assume that Christianity still reigns as a primary objective to crush, with it Andre possessing the vigor and tenacity necessary to conjure a hailstorm of malevolence. On the track “Ascending” you are introduced to his clean singing voice for the first and only time which resembles Ihsahn for better or worse. This is quickly overlooked by the fact that Katatonia vocalist Jonas Renske guest stars and delivers an articulate performance on the same song.
Guitar wise, Pantheon I have exercised a moderate approach letting Andre and Sagstad provide pummeling aggression and bleak melodies without over exertion. Unfortunately, this restraint prevents the band from reaching it’s full potential. The Pidgeot whirlwind of a solo on “The Last Stand” is quite incredible as is the synth/ cello/ guitar layering’s. But unfortunately these kind of spontaneous moments remain far and in between with the exception to Julianne’s excellent string work. On a plus note the tempos are greatly balanced between low to high, adding some mobility to the album’s momentarily stagnant nature.
Drumming is often fierce, bludgeoning, and hammer smashed face. Daniel Theobald as you guessed it is a roadrunner on the kit. Feeding the listener with a steady barrage of mechanized double bass and blast beats, the ferocity never relents. This lack of diversity kind of hit’s the drum department with an unsatisfactory mark because well, a few killer drum fills or rolls would sound great. Mind as well gravity blast all day while staring at yourself in the mirror. I’m not a drummer so technically I don’t really have any other complaints than the constant hammer smashing face attitude which works for awhile but not for a whole album.
Overall “Worlds I Create” is not perfect nor is it one of my favorite metal records of 2009 but it’s damn close of breaking my top 15. Implementing a full time cello in black metal is a little bold but Pantheon I have proven that with this record that it’s not a gimmick and it will continue to strengthen their music. Besides, have you seen the promotional pics regarding this new album? All I’m going to say is hottttt. And here’s to hoping Julianne never leaves the Pantheon ranks for greener pastures. Fans of melodic black metal, a heavier Apocalyptica or pretentious brutality need to acquire this A.S.A.P. This aint no carnival ride….Or…maybe it is?