Mix black metal with punk and the French predilection for the bizarre and the grotesque, and you get an opener which sounds like Enslaved. Born largely of the eccentric Doctor Livingstone and Arkhon Infaustus, Sektemtum have released this album as a follow-up to their debut “Aut Caesar, Aut Nihil” (2012).
After the surprising opener, the album settled into the discordant spit, bile and contempt that I had expected. “Ebony Grand Master” and “Direction Cataclysme” are rough at the edges, rebellious and pieces of crustily delivered black metal. The underlying sound is grumbly and rancid. So too “Empire” is downtrodden but yet from somewhere there is fire and even an epic edge like that opener. It’s grim stuff but there’s a strange kind of fluency about it. Just as I was forming a view of this album, along comes “Pantheon”. It’s black metal but this time it’s furious and sparks fly. No-one could say that Sektemtum are a single trick pony. It’s all over with in a flash, and “Le Crepuscule des Idoles”. I had to look to see if I was listening to the correct album. Everything is old school and has that underproduced feel, but this one sounds as if it was belted out in someone’s living room. Instrumentally it’s fine with a grumbly undercurrent and a hint of psychedelia about it but the vocals need a bit of work, let’s say. This could be deliberate of course, as there are many bands whose vocals I don’t like, and this is a hallmark of punk music. If we’re talking about French bands, then Trust spring to mind. “Bad Winds” is a perpetuation of the cacophony. Like “Le Crepuscule des Idoles”, it would be better, quite atmospheric in fact, if more respect had been given to the sinister instrumentals. “Bad Winds” is like a death march, and deserves credit at least for being unusual. “Lord Hear Our Prayers” has more than a tinge of irony and is quite funny, as well as having the air of an imperious death march. This serves as a suitable prelude to the disturbing and funereal “218”. The last three tracks take us back to black punk, and all the discordance that goes with it – quite depressing but I guess the idea was to be harsh and gloomy.
This was too much of a mixed bag for me. I didn’t find “Panacea” an easy or pleasant album to listen to. I’m ok with that if there’s some consistency of output but there isn’t. Some of it is atmospheric and it’s always dark, and I guess it’s ok if you like the musical equivalent of being in a grey crumbling building with the plaster peeling off.
(5/10 Andrew Doherty)