It’s not just the music that can be slow and laborious as far as funeral doom is concerned but also the time waiting patiently for it to arrive. There’s no DIY grindcore approach here, one take, a quick thrash and jobs a good un, here’s an album but every note is carefully constructed and wrung out in a tortured fashion and left to ferment and gestate over time. It’s been 7 long years since the last self-titled album release from UK based outfit Pantheist and only their 5th album in 18 years of existence. They are certainly one of my favourite acts from the UK playing this style along with the admittedly weirder Esoteric whom we have to date been awaiting new material for a similar length of time. Patience does however pay off and in the time we have been eagerly ‘Seeking Infinity’ keyboard player, vocalist and muse Kostas Panagiotou has in essence formed a new cast of players to work with. Ex De Profundis bassist Aleksej Obradović is now in the band along with guitarist Frank Allain of Fen, De Arma, Demagogue, Fellwarden & Virophage and drummer Daniel Neagoe of Bereft of Light, Clouds, Colosus, Deos, Eye of Solitude, God Eat God, Mistralth, Obseqvies, Shape of Despair & Vaer (phew). Considering how busy this lot are generally in composing new music in various forms in their other acts it is actually amazing they ever managed to get where they are finally today and put this new album together.
No surprise that it is a steadfast and hardy opus comprising of 6 new numbers over an hours-worth of playing time. We start with The Eye Of The Universe itself courtesy of a spoken word passage by Alan Watts. This serves not only as introduction to the music itself but also the heady concept of the album (Events – Professor Losaline’s Extraordinary Journey Into The Unknown written by Kostas himself). Those seeking further enlightenment into these themes are invited to look up Watts Zencast Podcast and download Kostas novel via PDF from the artist’s official Website Without wanting to turn this review into an essay itself I shall leave that to you and move towards the music at hand.
After the swirling organ sound and austere voice of the intro ‘Control & Fire’ sees the vocalist unleash a mighty roar over the progressive keyboard twists and turns, atmosphere is massive and melody is strong as the slow intensity gathers with solemn and near religious fervour. This is akin to a sound that you could imagine those in penance flagellating themselves gleefully to, bowed down by its weight. There are sudden doom death gallops and lighter piano like passages as it all forms and the listener is well and truly set up for an epic listening experience and a work that is going to totally consume them. Vocals are as varied as the music and those that feel the funeral doom tag if it even totally applies here is steadfast and staid are going to have to think again. A sudden spiralling guitar passage adds a further layer of wonderment and you find yourself coasting along, the music is surprisingly airy and light rather than dense and suffocating despite the guttural vocal roars and there is lots going on to fascinate and captivate the listener. Classical and sombre piano takes us into the historic sounding ‘500 B.C. To 30 A.D. The Enlightened Ones’ and the mystic keys and whispers make one feel like we have been given access to the practices of some ancient cult. It’s easy to imagine empires forming and crumbling as the music sweeps you slowly away with arcane intrigue mystically following you every step of the way.
Civilisations specifically Constantinople do indeed fall, sacked by the Ottomans and we are in those heady times with ‘1453: An Empire Crumbles’ there’s Tibetan Bells and a rich baritone vocal part as we move into what can best be described as a song that is more in line with World Music as anything else. Bodhran and Rattle add to the elements and we are transported into a different time and place and soak up the history of it all. We come through it all to ‘Emergence’ fragrant and lush dreamy motifs are the canvas to float along with Of course songs are long and engrossing, it’s the nature of the beast but it is well worth allowing their indulgences as this is a richly rewarding experience and one that will keep giving on further listens. The barking vocals and growls of the final piece ‘Seeking Infinity, Reaching Eternity’ and long fluid guitar lines work in complete contrast to each other on an emotional level mood wise and the song weighs you down and wrings you out over its near quarter of an hour length, proving a fitting epitaph to the album. There’s even some chord signatures here that evoke a vibe from the older esteemed Hellenic black metal cults and this is music that has seriously overflown with ideas and not restricted itself to anything in the way of genre conventions. So to sum up, this is a magnum opus and well worth the wait, Pantheist have created an album that needs to be experienced, listened to and consumed in every imaginable way. Enlightenment is just a click away.
(9/10 Pete Woods)