PanychidaWelcome to the latest “memorial service” from Czech Republic brigands Panychida. I remember their last campaign well, 2013 release ‘Grief Of An Idol’ proved to be an enthralling journey of pagan metal complete with themes of ancient death rituals and out of body experiences running through it. This time around the narrative concentrates on ancient folklore from the Eastern European regions with tales of witches, wild hunts and werewolves of Estonia and if that is not a compelling enough reason to want to dip into it I don’t know what is. With it comes an expansion of musical ideas, which was something the last album was not lacking in anyway as I noted saying every song had its own distinct feel about it weaving together a mix of both metallic swagger and traditional instruments including the likes of bagpipes, making it a real heady experience.

Leading us in ‘The Wild Hunt Assembly’ is heavily symphonic and neo-classical breathing these fokloric legends to life with a string section reminiscent of the likes of composers such as Mussorgsky rather than anything like Fleshgod Apocalypse. From there a child narrates a brief chilling nursery sounding rhyme before the heathen cleave of ‘Procession Of The Dead’ swaggers in. Guttural vocals growl and there is a compelling fury as it gets chops in and indignantly snarls away. It’s highly melodic with some slower intricate parts melding things together along with the charged and volatile bloodlust. Some very traditional sounding melodic guitar work shows why the band have mentioned the likes of Running Wild along with the likes of Khors and Helheim in their biog and this should certainly appeal to anyone who likes to raise horns of mead and have a damn good headbang. With three band members contributing to backing vocals there is plenty of diversity from all angles here. I love the calm and evocative melody that takes us into ‘The Night Consumes The Light’ it’s subtle and gorgeous as it flows through the track, drawing you right into its realms. It’s a slower number with an intricate feel and plenty of atmosphere ending all too quickly before devilish strings take us into ‘Josafat (The Gathering)’ mixing a rich and romantic symphonic melody with barbaric vocals. A spoken word part adds a filmic and epic feel to the narrative as this hammer of the witches puts a spell on you both musically and narratively. It has to be said this has gone down very well as a companion to Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy which I have been reading whilst listening to it.

After a lush acoustic instrumental and some great sweeping classical flourishes it’s time for ‘Hunting The Witches’ and things are not looking good for them as history has proved. There were many to accuse them of their crimes which lyrically gives a great opportunity to rhyme snitch with witch here! I guess you could look on this idea wise as a mix of bands such as Cradle Of Filth, Moonspell and Carach Angren but this is far from a pantomime musically and is really quite unique with every song adding different ideas and textures as it twists and turns from slow gravid movements to choppy surges. It is not just the witches out on this dark night and as I mentioned before the end it is the turn of ‘The Livonian Werewolf’ to get his bite on and he does with some fiery guitar licks and bloody rasps.

Taking me well beyond the realms of just music itself this was a fine and memorable night battle from a band obviously prepared to go that extra mile to provide a very good all round experience. The excellent woodcut style artwork proves this as do the two extra live tracks on the end and the fact the band even put on their own festival in Pilsen too (link below). If you are looking for music that goes bump in the night, this is well worth checking out.

(7.5/10 Pete Woods)