Pantheïst- Kings Must Die (EP Review)

March 6, 2024


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Pantheïst may have started off on the funeral doom side two and a half decades ago, but with each release the band has tried different things and explored just about every element of the doom genre.  Some albums went for a more progressive flair while others had some gothic tones to them, and founder Kostas Panagiotou has a knack or surprising with each Pantheïst release.  That’s quite the achievement for anything adjacent to funeral doom considering the genre is known for its rigidity, but even 2021’s Closer to God showcased progressive and cinematic flourishes along the slow and methodical instrumentation.  Three years later the group has returned with the Kings Must Die EP, which offers a brand-new song that runs for almost fifteen minutes as well as a full live set from Organic Doom Volume 1.  The new song is up to Pantheïst’s high standards, but the live set also boasts some great recording clarity, making this a great effort for newcomers and established fans.

Kostas has moved around a bit since Pantheïst was first formed, and this has resulted in some different lineups depending on which point in the band’s discography you’re listening to.  The title track serves as the first recording from the now Cardiff, UK based lineup, and it continues to showcase the type of stunning atmosphere and methodical build-ups the group is known for.  It has a methodical pace but feels more in line with the haunting beauty and crushing peaks of a band like My Dying Bride or even some Paradise Lost rather than funeral doom.  At the beginning the keyboards pull you in with somber melodies and the drums have a rhythm that sounds like the cadence of a funeral procession/march, but as the sound pushes outwards the distorted guitars come roaring in to bring just the right level of aggression.  Even at close to fifteen minutes in length, the instrumentation provides plenty of hooks as it explores different periods of subdued melodies and booming guitar and bass work, and I was pleasantly surprised that the time seemed to fly by with how engaged I was.  It can be hard for doom of this type to hold your attention for these longer spans, but Pantheïst once again shows how it’s done as even the softer sections have nuances that stand out.  But while the keyboards and other instrumentation have plenty to discover, it’s the vocal work that will draw listeners in the most.  Here Kostas has brought in Jake Harding from Grave Lines/Landskapt on lead vocals as well as soprano Linda Dumitru.  Harding has an airier yet powerful singing voice, and when combined with Dumitru’s operatic sopranos there are some haunting and beautiful moments over the course of the song.  Kostas does come in with growls around the halfway point, but they aren’t as big of a focus this time when compared to some of Pantheïst’s prior material.

The new song is easily worth the price of admission by itself, but what about the live performance?  I have to admit that live recordings are something I tend to skip over and am very hit or miss on, which may come down to how many dreadful sounding ones were included as bonus tracks on metal albums back in the early to mid-2000s.  But things have gotten better over the past decade, and the sound quality on the three live tracks are on par with studio output.  The Organic Doom Volume 1 performance saw the band accompanied by professional organist David Pipe, and their set consists of the “1000 Years” intro from their first demo, the title track to O Solitude, and “Strange Times” from 2021’s “Closer to God”.  This is one of the reasons that this EP is good for potential newcomers, as it provides them insight into the band’s earliest material as well as its most recent without having to commit to the hour-long length that some of the albums require.  Every element is crystal clear, from the crushing and melodic instrumentation to the vocal work, and the organ really contributes that much more atmosphere to these tracks.  There are a few vocal quirks where the singing sounds just a tad bit off, but it doesn’t take away from the performance too much and you may find yourself listening to the live tracks just as much as the studio piece.

Pantheïst’s emphasis on atmosphere has always made them distinguishable from a lot of the other doom bands out there, and they’ve often tried something a bit different with each album.  Sometimes you’d be getting much more dense and destructive riffs while other releases would emphasize a bit more melody.  Kings Must Die leans a bit more into classic UK doom with somber yet powerful singing and haunting keyboard and guitar work, and the live set showcases the best of the band’s earliest and most recent writing.  If the new track is a sign of where a new full length may be headed, there’s still plenty to look forward to from this long-running group.  Kings Must Die is available from Melancholic Realms Productions.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg