If you’re going to sit down and make a black metal album, it’s not a bad idea to take a few spins through catalogs of legends like Bathory and Darkthrone. It’s also a good idea to take some of their best parts and mold those together to form some super-beast type of transformer that will catapult you to the pinnacle of glory. Take the vocals from Under a Funeral Moon along with the riffage from F.O.A.D. and the overall compositional arc and mood of Panzerfaust. Slap that together with some viking elements from Blood Fire and Death and you’re well on your way to understanding the influential intricacies of Panphage’s sophomore full-length Drengskapr. Yet, while not being a mere carbon copy of what came before, the album feels fresh, combative and, most importantly, super, super fun.
Drengskapr itself is a mix of influences and sounds. Plenty of atmosphere is also to be found alongside the more classic influences. For example, the recurring themes of waves crashing on shores is quite prevalent. There are also moments of absolute headbanging brilliance like the closer “Blodshamnd” and riffs on “Landrendnsngen.” There are layers of vocals including choir-like chants all grounded by the barbaric, ripping screams of sole member Fjällbrandt. His vocals are a diverse melange of styles always executed with perfection, conviction and seriousness.
Tracks like “Utlagr” are examples of why Drengskapr is an album people should take notice of. Sure, it’s a black metal track with aggressive vocals and plenty of blasts. It even uses some of the more noticeable gimmicks these days like harmonized, choir-like vocals. But unlike most, it does this well. And, it does all of this while powering over an absolute knee-slapper of a riff. The track simply burns. There are even slow burners like “Glamsyn” that slowly roll into existence with clean guitars and near drone-like backing. Functioning primarily as lead-in track for the aforementioned “Utlagr.” Overall, it’s the riffs. Riffs that make you slam your head like you’re listening to early 80’s DC Hardcore.
The second track, “Landrendnsngen” is another absolute standout combining all the elements that make not only “Utlagr” great but the entire Panphage sound. Guitars pan in powering through ocean sounds playing epic, soaring lead lines reminiscent of thematic victory songs from Top Gun. The track is a tale of dichotomies. Some of the more brutal blast beats and double bass present themselves at various points while contrasted with some of the more recognizable and hummable lead lines as well as some of the more structured vocals.
But it’s not just riffs and tracks. For, if that were all it took to make quality black metal there would be a lot more good black metal in this world. Sure, the ingredients are there but it’s how an artist can put those together, it’s their technique in the final composition. And the reason Panphage should be noticed as a contender in 2016 is the simple fact that Fjällbrandt simply gets composition. The album’s arc, consistency and symmetry all make it a rather astounding work of black metal madness. Further, the balance in track length shows that Fjällbrandt can not only compose but also edit.