Album Title: 
Kings Must Die
Release Date: 
Friday, March 8, 2024
Review Type: 

I think it would be a waste of (my precious) time to introduce Pantheïst (or Pantheist, without the diaeresis on the ‘I’), for this is one of the most influential acts on our fabulous Planet within doomed and melancholic spheres. It’s the main act of Kostas Panagiotou, whom you might know as well from Sermones Ad Mortuos, Wijlen Wij (unfortunately defunct), Towards Atlantis Lights, Landskap or Aphonic Threnody (ex), amongst others. He’s also the running force behind the young label Melancholic Realm Productions, via which Pantheïst release their third album.

Actually, Kings Must Die is not a ‘real’ new album, for it consists of one new epos and three tracks from a special live-show they did in 2023. I’ll come back to the aural content immediately. This album was printed on compact-disc, i.e. an eight-panel digipack, with very nice, somewhat unusual cover artwork. That artwork was created by Kostas’ partner, Cheryl Panagiotou. Furthermore, there are some pictures from the Organic Doom live event, as well as liner notes from the band’s leader; everything being professionally designed by Francesco Gemelli (who directed some visual art and layout for  Towards Atlantis Lights as well, amongst hundreds of others).

The ‘new’ track that opens this album is the title track, which was recorded throughout the year 2023 at different locations. Eventually, all recording sessions got decently mixed by Pantheïst’s guitar player Jeremy Lewis, and mastered by Mark Mynett. The line-up on this track, FYI, is: Kostas (keyboards and growling voice), Jeremy (guitars), Matthew Strangis (bass), Jake Harding (lead vocals [clean voices, narration and whispers]; also working with Kostas in the [defunct?] band Landskap), Atanas Kyurkchiev (guitars), Fanel Lefterache (drums), and Linda Dumitru (female vocals).

Kings Must Die is a lengthy composition, clocking almost fifteen minutes, which goes on within the band’s typifying funereal and nostalgic style. It starts with a fine introduction: first a sample from a yelling voice, followed by an ethereal synth-line. Soon, a clean voice joins, singing with that emotive tragic, melancholic timbre, shortly after followed by a fine drum pattern, then a soprano voice, additional drum beats and a floating, dreamy solo guitar line. …until three minutes, when things turn more heavy, intense and energetic. Yet then again, every single minute things do interchange, while acoustic chapters go hand in hand with darker fragments. The whole of the time, Kings Must Die evolves, sometimes expanding in power, then again fading away in introspection, before growing once more towards vigorous proportions of funereal and semi-romantic Doom.

The use of leads, whether it be tremolo melodies or hypnotic solos, is still of undeniable importance. So are, of course, the different voices, whether it is narrative, grunting, chanting or operatic in tonality. Yet once again, the whole rhythm section too cannot be ignored, for rhythm and bass guitars and drums / percussions, as well as the fine keyboards, accompany the whole tale through wonderful spheres of melancholia, drama and history. A fine detail -though, it’s much more than just a detail- is the bagpipe-alike sound towards the end, with these martial drums and down-tuned strings. No need to add that this epic is another light within this band’s important oeuvre…

The second part of this album is a live registration of this act’s performance on the first Organic Doom festival, which also featured Arđ (who will release a new full-length soon, by the way). This gig was foreseen to mingle Doom Metal with live-played pipe organ (!) [a Willis-organ, for the purists amongst us] [a performance-on-stage with live organ does differ a lot from using this immense instrument on an album, for being mixed ‘easily’ in a studio]. The latter got performed by someone called David Pipe (indeed!). Pantheïst (Kostas, Matthew, Fanel and Atanas) played more than half an hour live on stage at the Huddersfield Town Hall (that’s where that famous organ is located) on a Monday, the 12th of June 2023. The registration was eventually mixed and mastered by Mark Mynett, formerly active as guitar player in Ayin Aleph and Kill II This, and a long-time studio-master.

Reading a comment by Kostas, this concert wasn’t an easy-going event at all. The band used organ-sounds in the past, yet this time, Kostas had to write, well, like a scenario, a score, for the organist’s part. Besides, the band did not have the chance to rehearse with the organist in preparation, because of the distance in between the band’s rehearsing room and the piper’s location. And at the day of the gig itself, Pantheïst had a soundcheck of nearly ten minutes before the opening of the doors for the (varied) public.

Eventually, things turned out very positive. The full performance has been put on this album. It consists of the short intro 1000 Years (cf. their demo from 2001), O Solitude (from the same-named 2003-album), and the lengthy opus Strange Times (taken from Closer To God, the second Pantheïst-release on Melancholic Realm Productions. Well, that intro immediately shows the beauty of an organ’s sound palette. It has something sacral, church-like, of course, and it refers to classic compositions like Bach (who’s Classical Music has always been of influence for Kostas, I read somewhere). It’s a nice prelude to O Solitude (which lasts for almost ten minutes), which shows the band’s incredibly strong ability to perform live. Okay, the very decent sound-quality is a strength, evidently, but the craftsmanship of performance of these guys is amazing. This specific track is a varying one, as you might know, with a fine interplay of harsh parts, tragic excerpts, integer moments and bombastic orchestrations. The atmosphere brings forth a hint of Gothic elegance, and a fine balance in between forceful persuasion (like that sudden fast-paced fragments towards the end) and introvert moodiness. Also within the ambience of Strange Times, which has a duration of twenty-two minutes, Pantheïst brings forth a well-balanced equilibrium of funereal tristesse and energetic persuasion. This composition might be one of the more ‘Funeral Doom’-oriented ones, and the parts with the deep grunts take the listener by his / her throat. Mind that beautiful interplay in between melancholic solos and haunting synths, accompanied by a splendid, little pushing rhythm-section. Yet here too, the injection of the pipe organ based fragments works magisterially intriguing; almost ceremonial and ethereal in nature, hypnotic and lackadaisical in the innermost spirit. Here too, as from half of the extended piece, some moments are more intense and powerful, interweaving well with the calmer, sometimes even hypnagogic chapters.

Enter the realm of melancholy and bit welcome to the kings that must die…