Tuesday 9 January 2024

Panzerchrist - All Witches Shall Burn (2024)

Country: Denmark
Style: Black/Death Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 5 Jan 2024
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Panzerchrist have been around for a long time, formed in 1993 and with a steady stream of studio albums, seven of them between 1996 and 2013. They play death metal that's blackened massively, so it's fair to expect plenty of both those genres from them. It took them ten years to knock out an eighth album, Last of a Kind, which I completely missed last July when I was swamped with events. That may be because of line-up issues, because there are only two long-standing members in the band nowadays.

That's Michael Enevoldsen, who founded Panzerchrist, but changed roles within it over time. His initial instrument was drums, which he played on their first two albums, and he also contributed keyboards. He isn't even on their third album, Soul Collector, though he wrote half the songs, but he switched to bass at that point, which he still plays to this day, keeping keyboards as a side role. Frederik O'Carroll is on his second stint with the band, but he's put in over a couple of decades in total. Everyone else joined in 2023, so were brand new on Last of a Kind.

That's Danny Bo Pedersen on guitar, Sonja Rosenlund Ahl on vocals and Danni Jelsgaard on drums, though he left the same year and has been replaced going forward by Ove Lungskov. I'm guessing that Pedersen and Ahl came as a double act, after their previous band, Arsenic Addict, split up in 2022. Both are strong here, with Ahl perhaps most obvious, not least because she also happens to be the first female lead singer Panzerchrist have had across a whole series of vocalists.

I haven't heard Last of a Kind, but I'm rather intrigued by it now, because this EP moves through a heck of a lot of territory. Sabbath of the Rat is what I expect from them, furious drumming over a set of chord progressions from the guitars and raw vocals leading the way. It's a good opener and it features an elegent slower section in the second half. This song is on Last of a Kind, though I'm not aware of whether this version is changed in any way, given that it isn't the EP's title track. In fact, there isn't one, so it feels like a deliberately varied presentation without focus being meant to be given to any one of the tracks.

That variety comes in with Stone of the Graveless, which starts out pure industrial then adds slow and heavy riffs over the top. This is doom metal at the front but industrial at the back, with Ahl a breathy death metal voice over the top of it all. It's unusual and, even before the band moved on to two further tracks that do different things, I started to think about Celtic Frost, not because it sounds like them but because, like they famously did, it feels like Panzerchrist are choosing to do exactly what they want to do, whether people expect it or not.

Stone for the Graveless does speed up, with a fascinating mix of fast double bass pedals and slow beats, but it retains a somewhat different feel, especially as the industrial sound never entirely leaves. It takes over again early in the second half and, while it's hard to tell, I think it remains in place even when the furious drumming kicks in over the top. The guitar gets more interesting in the second half too. Eventually, with a minute or so left, it becomes more traditional for a while, but it never stays there. There's always something interesting coming.

And, as if by magic, Satan is Among Us is something else that's interesting. It opens almost like an avant-garde classical piece, dissonant strings and dancing flutes. The drums bring in the band and we're back off and running, with Jelsgaard's frantic feet and Ahl's raucous voice. Again, the tempo is never a set thing and it continues to evolve over its five minutes. Stone for the Graveless passed six and is really starting to grow on me. This one isn't as much, as the changes seem clumsier. I'm pretty sure there's a male voice joining in at points to duet but I'm not seeing a credit for one, so it may all be Ahl. She certainly has the range for it to be her throughout.

She's a Witch wraps up the EP and it's the point at which the keyboards start to show themselves, with an atmospheric horror movie type intro. Ahl actually sings on this one, rather than relying on her death growl, and it starts to feel a little like a theatrical setup that someone like Alice Cooper might use as a live show intro, with a quirky female voice and a church organ. What surprises here is that the intro runs on past a minute, two minutes, three minutes and we suddenly realise that there's not much left, so this is what we're getting. It's the song.

So, there's a serious versatility here, well beyond what we might expect from a blackened death metal band. I'm suddenly intrigued by what might be on Last of a Kind, noting that the one song here that's also on there is the one and only traditional piece on offer. Maybe the other three are what the band created during their sessions for the album and realised weren't ever going to fit. Maybe the album sounds this thoroughly diverse. I may have to go back and find out. I'm going to go with a 6/10 here, but that's because it doesn't feel particularly coherent and because the first two songs seem to be in a different league to the second two.

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