Sound: Making black metal can be more of a game of luck than anything else; so much comes down to the atmosphere' that it can be a guitar tone or a mixing job that turns a pedestrian effort into a classic. The last two albums from Pantheon I have not been especially lo-fi but this time they've truly stepped into the arena of well-produced black metal', a dangerous one for many. The clarity of sound on Worlds I Create' is astounding, but the absent rawness has got to be replaced by something more substantial in the realm of songwriting, and it looks like Pantheon I have got it.
There's a great sense of grandeur that radiates from the riffs; tremolo picking and blastbeats are still the foundation of the sound but the shelf-life of that formula is preserved through the subtle yet threatening swells of low-register string instruments such as cellos. They provide a lot of texture but don't divert any attention away from the vocals and drums which take centre-stage. The connection between a string section and the aforementioned sense of grandeur has been made before, but worry not about the sickly, oversaturated feel of symphonic' black metal, there's nothing gimmicky about this band. As we reach the second half, however, things start to get a little too repetitive and a little too self-indulgent. The core sound of the album is still there but it loses some of its freshness, with acoustic interludes and other bells and whistles only doing so much to stop that. Penultimate song The Last Stand' is an album highlight however, masterfully weaving together all the different facets of sound touched upon across the album; unfortunately the anti-climactic Written In Sand' was chosen as the closer instead. Still, the consistent quality of the first half ensures this album is a good listen. // 8
Lyrics: Serpent Christ'? Burn The Cross'? Yeah, it's black metal. The artwork, although faintly comical, is fitting with the rest of the band's catalogue and the lyrics aren't half as moronic as they could be. Defile The Trinity', for example, is a standard anti-Christian tune (Resurrect, and we'll kill you again) but the assertive delivery of its chorus makes it a whole lot easier to enjoy for anyone, bedroom church-burner or otherwise. As I've said before the limelight is shared between drummer Mads Guldbekkhei and vocalist/guitarist Andr Kvebek (also known as Tjalve, former guitarist of 1349) and while both give mighty fine performances, it is the vocals that really stand out. Kvebek's roar sounds like it has come from the same creative pot as every other instrument in Pantheon I and it gels magnificently. There are also some lower growls and a guest spot from Jonas Renkse which appear in the name of variety, and both them help their respective songs fill out their reasonable lengths. // 7
Overall Impression: In the realm of modern (and modern-sounding) black metal, Worlds I Create' is more or less a success. It's a vicious sounding album but certainly leaves more room for progression and experimentation than the sort of black metal you'd usually describe as vicious'. Whilst sometimes things get a little tiresome it doesn't get much better than the first four tracks, or to pick the very cream of the crop, the first track Myself Above All'. Its highlights are most definitely worth a listen, and while I wouldn't count the album as an essential purchase, it should have plenty of interest for fans of the genre. // 7
- Duncan Geddes aka duncang (c) 2009