Wednesday, 6 October 2010
[ALBUM REVIEW] Pantheon - Vargrstrike
This version of Vargrstrike by American NSBM trio Pantheon recently saw reissue with cult label Darker Than Black Record with the band's Thangorodrim demo originally from 1998. Musically, Vargrstrike on a whole to be totally honest, is rather flat and unremarkable, which I suppose is keeping consistent with all the 'middle of the road' bands that happen to be a part of the mini-scene Pantheon is from. From what I've heard of Gestapo SS, Valaskjalf, Hrodvitnir and now Pantheon, they've all got one thing in common, they're as dull as dishwater.
Vargrstrike isn't a terribly bad release, it's just there's nothing which stands out, nothing which would ever get me excavating the CD back out from my record pile to listen to again. Then you have the lyrics which primarily deal with paganism, but sometimes veer off into ridiculous NS territory. I'm no prude when it comes to lyrics, national socialist tendencies don't bother me at all in music, but when you're screaming out “Seig Heil” constantly for the first half of a song, for example in 'The Atavism into Ginnungagap', it's pretty hard to take them seriously at times. This really just leads me to believe Vargrstrike is more of a political plinth than it is showcase of the bands talent.
You can tell each member is good at what they do in the band, but it does not gel together well at all. The guitars are the best thing about the release, the riffing is one of the few things which could hold my interest for any period of time during Vargrstrike. It's typical black metal tremolo riffing and never gets overly irritating or repetitive. What's that I hear also? Bass on an underground black metal release? Yep, Reubus has a distinctive bass sound on the release, and it's refreshing to actually hear bass for once, there's only one problem though, it's way too loud and just ends up pushing the guitar sound down through the mix. The drumming again, is fairly competent. The drummer you can tell knows what he is doing, but again the production kills them, the snare sound is way to high and piercing, inadvertently throwing your attention away from everything else, and what Pantheon have succeeded in doing is rendering the one stand out aspect of Vargrstrike completely toothless, and that's the guitarwork. The vocals are a low rasp, and sound as if they were performed sitting down. They have no power or conviction in their delivery. They're slightly Rob Darken-esque, but completely lack his power, Graveland are obviously a big influence on the bands music, but they don't get anywhere close to the epic feeling for which latter day Graveland are famous. The production on the album is just rough and shoddy and one of the biggest pit-falls of the release. It may have been a slight more listenable with an even production.
The three bonus tracks, which are the Thangorodrim demo are significantly more promising than the album itself which is rather strange, back then the band seemed to be more synth oriented and the drumming isn't half as annoying as in Vargrstrike and the music is better produced. For a demo to have better production than an actual album is pretty poor it has to be said. Thangorodrim could actually pass off well for a decent underground black metal release, and with riffing like such is present in 'Divine Frames of Luciferian Light' with it's monstrous elite atmosphere , such is also the direction the band should have taken for Vargrstrike. When it comes down to it, this album has no real personality at all, and Reubus himself has stated himself that he doesn't care at all for this release, and I can't say I care a whole heap either to be honest. When the only saving grace is the three bonus tracks at the end from a demo release, it's a distinctly poor show all round.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com