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Panychida is a pagan metal act from the Czech Republic that formed in 2004. With two full lengths already under their belt, the band released their first EP, “Woodland Journey”, in 2011. While most acts usually have shorter run times for their EP's, Panychida made theirs longer than most full length albums, clocking in at over fifty minutes. “Woodland Journey” features two songs from 2010, two live tracks, two covers and six new tracks, which actually sounds more like a compilation than an EP, but let's not get stuck on semantics.
“Woodland Journey” is an enjoyable pagan metal release that combines elements of folk metal, melodic death metal, black metal and even some traditional metal into a highly enjoyable listen with a decidedly Eastern European feel to it. The most interesting aspect of “Woodland Journey” is the spread of songs from different parts of the bands history: new, old and live; which gives a great feel for what the band is all about and how the band has progressed between the last album and this EP.
The newer tracks feature a range of dynamics from fast paced trem lines and blast beats into a very Opeth inspired winding melodic guitar line that sounds straight out of “Morningrise” with more relaxed drumming. The aspect that helps Panychida stand out more than anything are the catchy chugging riffs interspersed throughout the songs. Fast paced trem lines build into a chugging palm muting and melodic licks straight out of 1995 Gothenburg. Occasionally folk instruments pop in and out, which are usually flute or some version of synthesized flute, and add a very Slavic feel to the music. Tracks like “Podŭ Svĕtomǐ Dzvĕzdŭ” and “Báchorka” show this extremely well, displaying an extremely chuggy melo-death riff with a rollicking drum line, yet, somehow, still maintaining a very Slavic feel. The vocals are a strange mix of mid-range raspy blackness and a slightly higher garbled shout, but they get the job done without detracting from the music at all.
The older tracks are pretty similar, but the band is lacking some confidence. Their attempts at catchiness are admirable, but “Moon, Forest, Blinding Snow”, despite all it tries to do, is just not as good as the newer songs. The production isn't as clean, either, which may be what changes things. The two older tracks do experiment with folk instruments more than the newer ones, but the chugging melo-death lines are missing and without those, Panychida just seems like a second rate act. The lead guitar work on “Moon, Forest, Blind Snow” is stellar, with an Eastern European folk feel that somehow builds straight into a matching flute line without missing a step.
The two cover tracks, being Running Wild's “Black Wings Of Death” and Törr's “Posedlá”, are performed extremely well. If you've ever wondering what Running Wild would sound like as a pagan black metal act, then check this out. Panychida is able to keep their Slavic pagan styling on these tracks, which is quite a feat. Perhaps the melo-death and traditional leanings help in that aspect. The sound quality on the live tracks is also stellar, but like the tracks from 2010, shows the band dabbling with more folk instrumentation than the newer tracks.
“Woodland Journey” covers a hell of a lot of ground. If you're not familiar with Panychida, this seems like a great starting point. Six new tracks and six extras: old material, new material and live material. The old tracks may not be as confident as the newer tracks, but it helps to show the progression of the band. The newer tracks may not have as much folk influence, but the added melo-death and traditional elements make for an extremely catchy listen that still has a very Slavic pagan metal feel to it. I, for one, am excited to see what comes next from Panychida.
Written for The Metal Observer
There are, besides these three new ones, nine songs, which are set as bonus material. Two of them are from their last output, some are re-recorded or live versions of former songs and some are covers (like Black Wings Of Death from Running Wild) which are truly great, but as they only are “ornamental art”, I won’t focus on them.
Although the new songs of Woodland Journey are slightly different in terms of orchestration/composition, Panychida still remain faithful to their roots and therefore to the roots of the genre. That means, that none of the songs will sound like the cheesy party viking metal songs, nobody really wants to hear anyways. The songs are blackened pagan metal ones which still have some decent folk influences in the melodies as you would have expected but they still continue the way, they started with Moon, Forest, Blinding Snow. Therefore, they reduced the usage of folk instruments like flutes and if they appear, they are quite subtle.
Although those flagships are this subtle, the folk influence the band has is still audible through filigrane riffs. The empty space induced by the lack of folk instruments is filled by the use of choral chants and such and therefore the record is full of atmosphere. Another compensation are the new heavy metal influences you can hear in songs like Return From The Woodland Journey (for instance in the solo). The EP can be heard several times, as you will discover new details on every play-through. The production is quite similiar to the one of their last record and therefore you can’t really complain.
If you loved the last record of the band, you can buy this EP without even thinking about it. The EP offers everything you would want and/or expect from Panychida, without reheating old stuff. The usage of folk instruments has been reduced again, but the songs can still convince through thick atmospheres and rounded compositions. If you don’t want to buy the EP without listening to the songs before, you are welcome to download it on the bands homepage.
Written for http://threnodies.com