Originally written by Jordan Campbell
Pantheon I‘s last record, The Wanderer and His Shadow, was one of 2007’s more underrated offerings. Their brittle, slightly-progressive black metal harkened back to the days of Quintessence-era Borknagar and pre-soulsuck Keep of Kalessin. Packed with furious drumming and delightfully acidic vocals, and also boasting a devilish weapon–Live Julianne Kostøl’s cello–The Wanderer and His Shadow was a hell of a record on its own, as well as a beacon of potential greatness.
Worlds I Create doesn’t quite deliver on that promise.
That realization is slow to unfold, as the album’s opener, “Myself Above All,” is absolutely scorching. Compiling all of their influences into a high-octane modern BM clinic, the track is simply massive: huge chorus, huge riffs, breakneck tempo-shifts. But the rush is fleeting. “Defile The Trinity” kills the momentum with Black Metal 101 lyrics and some scenery-chewing blast beats courtesy of new drummer Mads Guldbekkhei, whose attack isn’t nearly as tasteful as his predecessor’s.
Quickly, it becomes obvious that the subtle wickedness of Pantheon I‘s sound has been sacrificed for Mads G’s bludgeoning. Kostøl’s somber tones have been marginalized in favor of fury, and that fury never quite reaches a boiling point. “Serpent Christ” is leaden and lumbering (rather than seething and sinister) and the faux vitriol rings slightly hollow. Sure, Pantheon I seem miffed. Angry, even. But what the fuck is angry anymore? I want my black metal to be outright homicidal, if anything.
(And really..how pissed off at Jesus can anyone still possibly be? Hasn’t the point been made already? Picking on Christianity in 2009 is akin to kicking a blind sheep in the balls; it doesn’t take much courage or intellect, and it’s not doing anything to advance the humanistic cause. If you really want to tear shit down, read a fucking book and make a case in support of something…or at least grow the sack required to take a shot at Islam. Maybe Ayat can lend you some mojo.)
Segueing from clichéd subject matter, “Ascending” features a showstopping guest appearance from the infallible Jonas Renkse, who slips into the ICS Vortex role quite nicely. Following that, however, the band launch into the (again) drum-driven “Burn The Cross,” blithely unaware of the connotations the phrase carries in the United States, and even further unaware of the song’s one-dimensional redundancy. It’s painfully obvious by this point that 3 of these guys have served tenure in 1349, and could be subconsciously overcompensating for that band’s recent foibles. Unfortunately, the attempted intensity is dampened by the ultra-slick, drum-drowned presentation. At this point, the best elements of the Pantheon I sound aren’t the full-on blasters–they’re the ones that borrow heavily from latter-day Emperor. But there’s still latter-day Emperor for that kind of fix.
Truthfully, while the tone of this review has been generally harsh, there’s nothing inherently sub-par about this album. It’s well-crafted and well-played, and actually, it’s quite scintillating at first listen. However, a shroud of disappointment begins to creep its way in, and its pall grows darker with each successive spin. Worlds I Create simply doesn’t capitalize on the potential shown on their previous offering, and fails to scratch the progressive black metal itch that Ne Oblviscaris is likely poised to pounce upon.