The bite of an apple...and so begins Pantokrator's new album, Blod.
You know, I liked the split with Sanctifica that Pantokrator put out a while back. I thought they sounded like a pretty decent band. The thing is, the band was known more for their name then their sound. My friends loved making fun of this band's name calling them things like, "Panty Krator" or "Plankton Tractor". Now with the release of Blod, that split seems like child's play in comparison. No longer is the name the main focus. Pantokrator has upped the ante big time and has released an album that you'll be dying to let your friends hear. Pantokrator plays brutal, doomy death metal and methodically rams song after song down your throat. The band seems at ease whether they are blazing along at 90 mph or slamming on the brakes to settle in a slow, doom-laden style. The "speed" parts aren't always really all that fast though. Think "Injudicial" by Paramaecium. You know, the first part of the song that speeds it up a little. Take that and go a little bit faster and that's where Pantokrator sounds most at home. I swear you'll pound your head through your computer keyboard or your car steering wheel while listening to this stuff. The thing about it is, the band is always in control. They never get in a hurry, but speed things up and slow things down perfectly at the exact time the song needs it. Every second of this disc was well thought out and planned exquisitely.
The vocals are harsh, gutteral, and commanding, sometimes almost displaying a black metal influence. At times I hear some slight influences of bands like Extol, Opeth, Tourniquet, or Believer, but Pantokrator has their own sound for sure. The Believer influence is most evident in the awesomely somber "Tidevarv". The band uses haunting violins, soft acoustic guitars, and female vocals mixed with the metal, reminding me of the "Trilogy of Knowledge" classic that Believer released a decade ago. I love it!
The production on this album has also been upped many notches. They have a huge, thick and beefy sound that begs to be cranked. The guitars sound powerful and the drum sound is equally as good. Lyrically, the band sings in Swedish, but the lyrics are also printed in English. The subject matter, which is a concept story, is very bold and written superbly. From the song "Gudablodets Kraft" (The Power of Divine Blood): "The veil is torn in two/Satan your head is crushed/Where is your dominion now?/The work of your evil is fallen/And drenched in the blood of the Lamb." Definitely an album that you don't want to just "listen" to. You gotta dig into the meat of the words being sung. To complete the experience, the band also has some great artwork in the booklet.
This is one of the best releases yet this year. Along with Crimson Moonlight's new album, Rivel Records is doing a kick butt job of delivering the metal in 2003. This is a must have! (Review by Matt)