REVIEW: BELZEBUBS – “Pantheon Of The Nightside Gods”
When bands form, it’s usually a group of musicians that somehow cross paths with one another and begin jamming in the veins of their favorite music genre. This happens with new bands and supergroups quite often, leading to magnificent debuts and discographies over time. However, there are times where great musical projects are built up by other means, such as fictional characters and worlds created by one or a few people. For instance, Dethklok became a major hit, first as a TV show and then evolving into a full-fledged band that toured a few times and released a few albums that hit the charts with aplomb. Although Dethklok is no more and has been somewhat “resurrected” through Galaktikon, another fictional band has taken the stage in the metal scene, evolving from a comic world created by JP Ahonen.
Belzebubs spawned from JP’s creative mind, along with other projects over the years. The comic played upon the stereotypes of “serious” black metal musicians, including satan worshipping as well as wearing corpse paint 24/7. I started following the comic late 2017, immediately falling in love with the comedic escapades of the band, the aforementioned Belzebubs. The project began gaining momentum as more time passed, eventually leading up to the first single, “The Blackened Call”, being released by “the band” in mid-2018. After listening to the single several times, I immediately knew that this idea would become the new and even more successful Dethklok of metal’s past. Then, later on in the year, ‘Pantheon Of The Nightside Gods’ was announced, a full-fledged album spanning 53 minutes featuring progressive melodic black metal greatness.
‘Pantheon Of The Nightside Gods’ starts off with the second single released, “Cathedrals of Mourning”, immersing the listener in a dark ambient introduction, similar to that of a dark cathedral (as hinted in the title), flowing into piano and eventually into Sløth’s high scream vocals. The pace at this point is immensely different to before, with lightning fast soaring guitars backed by operatic-like female vocals adding to the density of the music. This style plays within most of the album with a few surprises thrown in by various influences. Hubbath then contributes his vocals alongside a doom inspired composition.
Many of the tracks are laden with orchestral, piano, and synth compositions, bringing forth that progressive element to the album. These elements don’t suffocate the meat and bones of the music either. Each component is a small gear in the giant machine that is Belzebubs. What also contributes to this is the mixing and mastering by Dan Swano, who has contributed to countless bands/groups as a musician and behind the scenes of recording/mixing/mastering/etc.
As the listener delves deeper into the album, one finds themselves to the newest released single “Nam Gloria Lucifer”, plunging a little deeper into the dark depths of black metal. The harsh vocals reach down into the lowest circle of hell, coming out in a volcanic and ashy manner. This is easily the heaviest single of the album to be released but isn’t the last surprise to be uncovered.
‘Pantheon Of The Nightside Gods’ also has its slow moments, featuring acoustic guitars in the intro of “The Crowned Daughters” and evolve into a blackened doom melody. It builds up even more with soaring guitars and the reintroduction of the acoustic. Light, clean vocals surprise the ears here, bringing about uplifting energy and transforming back to bone-chilling harsh vocals. This continues until it melds into the next offering “Dark Mother”. Straight to the point, “Dark Mother” brings back the scarring of “Nam Gloria Lucifer” in another form. There are more meat and potatoes to the album, with the last two tracks keeping the listener enthralled until the very last second.
Most recent albums barely hit the 40-minute mark, yet somehow Belzebubs creates a collection of tracks reaching close to an hour. This hour is fulfilling, dark, meaningful, and still has the ears yearning for more. With repeated listening, one will hear something new every time. This occurs due to the contribution of the progressive additions, breaking up the monotony that black metal may bring in certain respects. The lyrics are also intelligent and bring even more substance to the music, coinciding with the seriousness of mature black metal projects. ‘Pantheon Of The Nightside Gods’ is a near perfect debut in the realm of black and death metal in terms of composition, lyricism, production, and overall fluidity. Every track is different, yet somehow cohesively brings everything together in a near flawless fashion. DO NOT SLEEP ON THIS ALBUM.