Review Summary: Returning to their roots
Pandemonium have been around for a long time already and they certainly known what it takes to write a competent black metal album. Starting out in 1989, falling conveniently between the two waves of black metal, the band has kept going till this day, although it is somewhat remarkable that, for a group that's been around for more than 20 years, they have only released seven studio albums. Misanthropy, being the group's latest, returns to the band's true pagan roots, leaning away from the industrial and symphonic elements that Pandemonium used in the middle of their career. While it isn't the heaviest, grimmest nor the most intense piece of of black metal, this album does indeed prove to be a valiant resuscitation of Pandemonium's past.
Misanthropy takes a different path compared to the band’s previous few outings, the industrial-tinged The Zonei and the thrashy Hellspawn. The songs are much meatier here (both from a sound and production standpoint) and it's obvious that Pandemonium are drawing influences from the school of death metal again, rather than adding a thrashy edge to their riffs. The tempo is slowed down, with a notable doom influence prevalent in quite a few tracks, which adds another dimension to the album. Speaking of which, Misanthropy is not what you'd call a traditional pagan black metal album at all. It takes the dark atmospherics of black metal and mixes them with death metal-influenced, downtuned riffing and the occasional doom-like tempo, all the while staying true to its pagan theme and adding a healthy dose of melody.
The album’s selling point is the strength of its compositions. The riffs on Misanthropy are quite straightforward and often chunky in nature, the chord progressions rather predictable, and while the leadwork is undoubtedly tasteful, it is not exactly awe-inspiring. It is the way that the songs are put together, though, that makes Misanthropy aesthetically pleasing. Different riff sections that are on show in every track run into each other in super smooth fashion and the atmosphere created by the subtle use of keys is always commanding. If there is one slightly negative aspect that should be brought into daylight, it’s that Pawet Mazur’s vocals, while fittingly grim for this type of music, aren’t quite on the level that they used to be at. He still gets the job done well enough, but his vox have lost some of that oomph they had about a decade ago. Mazur’s low-end is still great, but his rasps aren’t quite as poignant as they used to be.
What Pandemonium present to the listener on their seventh full-length studio album is a valiant return to their pagan black metal roots. Gone are the electronics and symphonics that the band played around with on some of their mid-career releases, as they have been weeded out in favor of a darker, doomier sound. The tempos are mainly slower and the riffing thicker, with strong songwriting propelling the album forward. Pandemonium have effectively captured their past essence and have put it into a modern wrapper. The end result is what’s heard on Misanthropy, and while it is not a groundbreaking album in any field, it is a solid black metal record.