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When Pantheist released their 2001 demo ‘1000 Years’, they were hailed as one of the shining lights in the funeral doom genre, a claim that was solidified upon release of their first full length ‘O Solitude’. Since then however, things have changed. Subsequent albums were more experimental, adding completely different, and some would suggest incongruous styles into the established mix. It’s fair to say that opinion was well and truly split over the slow shift in direction, some levelling the standard accusation in such cases of ‘selling out’, others hailing the bravery of such a move. Now, after a three year wait, Pantheist finally unveil the next stage in their evolution, and it’s a logical, yet still surprising one.
Some bands evolve in a linear fashion, whereas with some, the direction goes full circle. Take Paradise Lost and Anathema for example. Paradise Lost moved from their death doom roots in a gradually lighter direction towards the electronica based ‘Host’, before beginning an arc that has taken them back towards their heavier beginnings. Anathema from the same roots got lighter and more progressive with each album; culminating in last year’s excellent ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’. Pantheist have clearly taken Anathema’s direction with this self-titled album.
Opening track ‘One Of These Funerals’, rather lulls you into a false sense of security, featuring a reasonably heavy doomy riff and atmospheric keyboards, it carries along at a fairly purposeful rate. It’s with the second track and first actual song that Pantheist now unveil their true form, and whilst there is the faint hint of doom in there somewhere, the general atmosphere is one of ambience. Keyboards feature heavily and Kostas Pangiotou’s vocal delivery can probably be best described as a heavily accented Pete Murphy of Bauhaus. The second half of ‘Broken Statue’ is highly reminiscent of more recent Anathema, in both lyrical structure and musical arrangement. The sound is deceptively grandiose; a realisation that creeps up on you gradually over the course of the album. The funeral doom roots are highly evident on ‘The Storm’, a slow burning epic track that changes course half way through and leans heavily on the ‘Prog’ fence, and easily ranks amongst their finest work. It also provides us with one of the very few instances we get of the death vocal style on this album.
The most interesting and memorable track on the album is ‘Be Here’, with its absolutely piercing and haunting vocal. It’s just perfectly arranged, and the mix and vocal delivery of the chorus gives the impression of a disembodied spirit calling out. The guitar adds weight and contrast to the light minimalist keyboard, the overall effect being something that burns its way into your brain. Equally notable but for a slightly different reason is final track ‘Live Through Me’, which is predominately piano based, before picking up pace and adding the guitars halfway through. This is clearly intended as an epic album closer, yet falls way short of the mark. The arrangement and the grandiosity of earlier parts of the album are missing here, but for the last line of the chorus. It sounds half finished.
Pantheist have succeeded in making a very hard album to categorise, and for that they should be soundly applauded. Yes, it’s funeral doom. It’s also goth…and prog. Hell, you could even say it’s easy listening in places. One thing that is unarguable though is that it is completely and thoroughly engaging. It’s a piece of work that has many layers and levels and will draw you in and hold your attention. I imagine this is going to be a step too far for some fans, but for those who are willing to give this the time it deserves, this is a very fine piece of work and one which I feel is going to get even better with time. Highly recommended.
Originally written for MTUK: http://www.metalteamuk.net/apr11reviews/cdreviews-pantheist.htm