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Surreal - 90%

Deh Dabbler, September 21st, 2016

The first word I would use to describe Khaooos & Kon-Fus-Ion is surreal. It's bizarre and alien, but inspired by very real faults and trappings of the human mind.

Pan.Thy.Monium came out of nowhere and grabbed me by the horns this summer. I chanced upon "The Battle of Geeheeb" while skipping around a Relapse Records Anniversary Sampler that I downloaded forever ago and forgotten about. At first, it simply struck me as a curiosity. Its 12 minutes of mazy, bipolar death metal stuck out like a sore thumb from the heapings of conventional Goregrind and Sludge Metal. I didn't even know the band was a side-project of Edge of Sanity mastermind Dan Swanö. That is, until occasional scattered listens over the next few weeks finally allowed me to wrap my head around the brilliance of the song, pushing me to research Pan.Thy.Monium further.

Turns out Swanö anonymously created Pan.Thy.Monium to work through a personal identity crisis. This album, Khaooohs & Kon-Fus-Ion, sets to music the final saga of a dreamworld-war between dark god Raagoonshinnaah and light god Amaraah (representing conflicting parts of Swanö's mind). But there are no lyrics. The growls are completely gibberish, probably intended to convey the same fictional language as the god names and song titles. I found all this completely fascinating and immediately sought out the rest.

After about a week of nonstop listening to this masterwork, I think it might just be my second-favorite thing the Swanö brothers ever did after only Crimson (sorry, Purgatory Afterglow). As a longtime admirer of the aforementioned 40-minute opus, I'm surprised I never heard about Khaooohs & Kon-Fus-Ion sooner. It's a concept album of similar scope, split into just two main tracks. It's significantly shorter than Crimson, but without any of the recycling of certain passages or dramaticism. Pan.Thy.Monium bounce freely and haphazardly from one idea to the next, alternating between crushing Swedish Death Metal (the centerpiece of their sound), abstract Zeuhl-esque breaks, hard rock melodic guitar leads, doomy passages, xylophones, saxophones, squeaks, squeals, screams and other assorted madness. Sometimes at the same time. Yet, as much as there is going on, it all works and feels like a cohesive composition. And it all rocks. Given the above the album is surprisingly accessible. The riffs are super engaging and groovy. Each one, though they don't stick around too long, makes a huge impact.

Khaooohs & Kon-Fus-Ion really does personify the chaos of an internal war, with all the schizophrenia, triumphs, confusion and mood-swings it entails represented in the music. "The Battle of Geeheeb" is still my preferred of the two main parts by a slight margin ("Behrial" is a mellow instrumental epilogue in the aftermath after good-guy Amaraah wins the war and "In Remembrance" is silence). But the both are absolutely must-listens for anyone who loves the highly avant-garde, progressive and unorthodox in Extreme Metal. And even if that's not usually your thing, the riffs and melodies are strong enough here to reel in most metalheads. These are the same guys that brought us Edge of Sanity, after all. Just give it a few listens to wrap your head around all that's on offer.

Review also published by me on RateYourMusic