Friday 26 August 2022

Panzerfaust - The Suns of Perdition - Chapter III: The Astral Drain (2022)

Country: Canada
Style: Black Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 22 Jul 2022
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I'm not convinced I've ever heard Panzerfaust before, though I have heard the Darkthrone album of that name, which I presume was the source of the band's name rather than the Nazi anti-tank weapon. After all, they're Canadian and not associated with the NSBM movement, though they do write lyrics about war. This is their sixth album in total and the third in the series that's occupied them over the past few years, The Suns of Perdition. Chapter I was War, Horrid War in 2019 and it was followed by Chapter II: Render unto Eden a year later. I believe there are to be four albums in this series, so this is the awkward third before it wraps up.

That said, it doesn't feel particularly awkward. I haven't heard either of the first two chapters, so I can't speak to how it compares, but this is an impressive album that makes me wander to find that pair and experience the whole thing (thus far) in entirety. If there's anything awkward to mention, it would be the presence of experimental interludes in between the five songs proper that I don't see have a real purpose except to separate the tracks. Maybe that's all they intend to do, but they have an industrial tinged sound effect vibe to them that suggests they ought to achieve more than they do.

I knew Panzerfaust played black metal but that didn't prepare me for their sound here. There's as much doom metal here as black and much of the point seems to be texture, atmosphere if you will but I'd say that's a misleading word in this context, as this isn't really atmospheric black metal as a genre. Sure, there's atmosphere in the sound effect laden backdrops; every song starts and ends with one of those, as if we're listening to a Krautrock album. But then the guitars show up and the drums and we're into black metal territory.

If anything, the textures have a gothic flavour to them, due to lush feel and firm confidence, but I wouldn't remotely call this gothic metal. It's always surprisingly slow black metal, deliberate and dark and with rare enough ramps up in tempo that they're always noteworthy when they appear. I would say only one song, The Far Back at the River Styx, spends most of its time at the traditional black metal sort of speed, because it ramps up quickly and never slows back down again.

The songs aren't short, as we might expect from such a slow take on black metal, but only the first of them, Death-Drive Projections, could really be called long, clocking in at over ten minutes, with the others lasting a comfortable six or seven minutes each and change. They're patient creatures, the doom element dictating the tempo and the texture often suggesting ritual. There's a hypnotic quality to the music that I appreciate and I'd like to see how that manifests in the earlier chapters.

I have no idea what the overarching story is here, though I presume there is one, given that this is surely a single concept album spun over four full length releases. I'm enjoying this for the feel, an approach that's probably still in mind from yesterday's Nik Turner album, and every component is on board with the feel. Even the vocals play ball, because there are two singers here, Goliath, who only wears the one hat in the band, and Brock Van Dijk, who also plays guitar, and they hand off to each other as if it's important somehow for the lyrical delivery to continue without any pauses for breath.

Death-Drive Projections is just patient, steadfastly refusing to speed up, though it somehow gets a little more intense as it goes. Bonfire of the Insanities, on the other hand, rumbles along like it's an unstoppable creature, utterly confident in its eventual victory that it doesn't have to exert any more effort than it feels like at any point in time. It's a surprise when it ramps up to more typical black metal speed with less than a minute to go, but maybe that unstoppable creature is pouncing. Tabula Rasa is bludgeoning, not insanely fast but ultra-powerful and with a seriously hard hitting beat from a very impressive drummer, Alexander Kartashov.

After a few listens, I'm still not sold on the interludes, which range from only thirty-eight seconds of The Pain to almost six minutes with Enantiodromia. Almost ten minutes of interludes seems just a little excessive on a forty-seven minute album and this would be a safe 8/10 without them. Were they just not happy with thirty-eight minutes?

I think the songs get better too as they progress, the first two solid but the last two even more so and maybe Bonfire of the Insanitise right at the heart of the album above them all in my thinking. But this is all new to me. Clearly, I need to check out the first two chapters in The Suns of Perdition tetralogy. Maybe I've found another favourite black metal band from North America, after Wolves in the Throne Room.

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