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Groovy deathish, blackish metal with great vocals - 76%

lord_ghengis, March 16th, 2012

With a band name which has been used six times, and an album name that's been used 20 times, it shouldn't be a huge surprise to see that this band isn't exactly smashing their way through the boundaries of metal. Misanthropy, the project's fourth offering since forming twenty odd years ago is a very safe sounding record. It's mid paced, it isn’t really harsh in any particular way, nor does it unfold with any sort of desperation, nor is it challenging to the listener's sensibilities; this is just a simple, catchy, slowly chugging album with some crazed vocals and a few cool lead parts layered over the top.

This is my first taste of Pandemonium, and whatever their past held Misanthropy consists of a style of very simple, very groovy and infectious, kinda deathy metal with a fair few hints of black and occasionally doom touching around the edges. The concept on it's own certain holds a lot of promise, but the band is so focussed on being catchy and getting rhythmic grooves going that the wealth of little hints of genres they take inspiration from never get played up to anything of importance beyond a little bit of window dressing. I guess this could count as being similar to the groove based, not quite doomy groove/black of bands like Ruins or the new Sear Bliss album, but the black metal content is even less. Pandemonium are also a lot better. Unlike those groups, this actually is pretty effective in getting you to go along with the meandering march that the music takes, mostly thanks to the awesome vocals of the terrifyingly named "Paul" and the massive guitar and drum sound here. At times, such as the massively lumbering Stones Are Eternal it borders on doom, but the general movement of the band is more of an easy to nod along with march rather than a doomy plod or stomp. I guess it could be put in the same sort of catagory as post-reunion Celtic Frost, big and simple, heavy, very slow song progressions with a little bit of other extreme metal sprinkled on it, but at the same time it never gets quite as soft and gothic, nor as slow and doomy.

These guys do have a pretty good ear for their little black metal touches in the lead guitar work, and while they're not often overt the band executes both melodic and more grisly black metal touches well. This does give the album a little bit of atmosphere to go along with the chugging pounding, but any sort of mood setting is usually quite overwhelmed by the rhythm guitar. As such the big draw and dominating factor of this album quite simple: Big grooves and awesome multi-tracked vocals. The opener and closers are probably the only exception to this rule, the former featuring a bit less grooving punch and a bit more black metal in the riffs, and the later really showing what the band's sound could feasibly produce. The song Misanthropy tones down the rhythm guitar a little while still keeping the grooving march going, but adding a sprawling lead over it which honestly reminds me of the stuff Ahab has been focussing on of late but much more exciting and impressive, then it's all topped off with some ripping wailed female vocals with a slightly ethnic bent.

For the main part there is only one vocalist, offering up a multitude of shrieks, murky roars and grunts and other various deranged noises. Not a huge range in any department, but enough to impress overall. He uses a lot of multi tracking, so if you're against that, look away, but it’s done well to create quite an overpowering cacophony which helps keep this from being a groove metal album for all the little kids. On occasion there are some muddied clean vocals to mix it up, and on two tracks there is some input from an excellently performed crazed female voice, which while operating in that sort of operatic style is delivered with a frenzied disregard to traditional melody resulting in the same sort of effect as the harsh vocals. If anything, she sounds more like a theramin than a standard big female voice.

This is a far from perfect album, and could do with either some riffs that function to be more than a crawling rhythm to be latched onto and function as something to be impressed by in their own right, or some more flat out doom or fast black or death metal to even it out, but it is certainly good, and is well worth a listen if only for how well the vocals work with the music offered. They've got their own little niche sound really well figured out, but it has a lot of directions to go that don't get explored fully, a fact which is made strikingly clear in the amazing closing number, which honestly makes the rest of the album sound positively low brow and aimless in comparison. Still, it's big, it's fun, it has good vocals and a good sound, and one song I would deem to be unmissable, and is overall well worth your time..