Album Review: Belzebubs – Pantheon Of The Nightside Gods
Release date: 26 April 2019
Record Label: Century Media
For Fans Of: Dimmu Borgir, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Dethklok
Belzebubs started life in 2016 as a web comic created by JP Ahonen. Having gained a cult following the comic has now evolved into a cross media concept, more akin to Gorillaz or Dethklok. The debut release, Pantheon Of The Nightside Gods, is supported by several fully animated music videos helping to further develop the visual aspects of the band. The music is not a mere afterthought either, but instead a meticulously crafted body of work created to further develop the world of Belzebubs. As it stands there is very little information on who performed on the Belzebubs album, but in a lot of ways this works favourably and allows for more focus to be put on the music and concept rather than on individuals.
The album kicks off with the single ‘Cathedrals of Mourning’. After a hauntingly ambient beginning the track kicks in with full force and blazing blast beats. The track is a great indicator of what’s to come, with a combination of fast paced melodic riffs, beefy guttural vocals, a dose of orchestration and most importantly excellent use of dynamics. While the Belzebubs comics strongly draw visual influence from Black Metal culture the first track is a clear indicator that they will not be strictly sticking to the Black Metal genre, instead embracing various sub genres of Metal and infusing them into their own style. There’s the obvious symphonic influences, but also hints of Death Metal, Progressive Metal and even of Shred in the guitar solos. This fusion of Metal genres makes sure there is always something interesting around the corner, preventing the album from becoming stale or too repetitive. While some may call out Belzebubs for not being Trve Kvlt Black Metal sonically, the more mature, professional and thoughtful approach to the record will pay dividends in the future.
The visual side of Belzebubs is also an important part of the package and I highly suggest watching the video for ‘Cathedral of Mourning’. It is equal parts gloriously Metal and charming at the same time. The video contains the standard music videos shots but goes on to utilise the possibilities opened up by using animation. The story is developed with shots such as showing the guitarist trekking up to the peak of the mountain to unleash a wonderfully melodic solo in a blizzard. Until the ground collapses and the band are cascading down the side of the mountain. The video aims to be equal parts a standard music video and to be taken semi seriously, but has several light hearted moments which embraces the less serious side of Belzebubs seen throughout the comics.
The other music video released to date is for the 3rd track on the album, ‘Blackened Call’ and once again has an animated music video. The track continues to demonstrate the musicianship that has been poured into this album, with a well composed song and great performances from all the musicians involved. Kicking straight in with a relentless triplet melody and backed up with blast beats the track drives forward, accompanied by ambient choral chords. The video features the band in what at first appears to be a dark wood, performing a ritual surrounded by fire. Once again embracing a moment of humour it turns out that the band are just in a garden and end up being hosed down with a fire extinguisher.
It’s these moments, where the videos are grounded back in reality, bringing a sense of charm to the Black Metal visuals. All too often the Metal genre takes itself far too seriously, trying to portray elements of strength and aggression that it’s always refreshing to see a sense of humour.
There are however several twists, turns, and surprises as the album progresses and one such twist can be found in the track ‘The Crowned Daughters’. Taking ideas from progressive music the song starts off slowly with a gentle acoustic melody providing momentary serenity before journeying into a heavier melodic instrumental section. Upon returning to the acoustic melodies the track introduces the first set of clean vocals. But the heavier side rules supreme, piercing through the calm and providing a excellent segue into the epic and progressive ‘Dark Mother’.
‘Dark Mother’ kicks straight in with dissonant riffs before the symphonics elements are gradually introduced, with brass and choral parts contrasting the harsh nature of the guitars. The dissonance gives way to more melodic section of the song, but retains the atmosphere that has been laid down in the first part of the track. As the song progresses the symphonic elements take the main focus allowing the track to have room to breath and showcase it’s many elements without being too dominated by one idea or another. The track ends creating an ambient soundscape which bleeds into the introduction of the following track, ‘The Werewolf Bride’.
The final two tracks are slight curve balls when taken in isolation. ‘Nuns in the Purgatory’ is a purely acapella track with none of the ferocity found in the previous songs. It’s acts as a somber penultimate track, winding down the album and essentially providing time for reflection. The final track ‘Maleficarum – The Veil of the Moon Queen, Pt. I’ is purely instrumental, but again features none of the traditional band instrumentation, instead opting to focusing purely on the symphonic ideas explored in the album. It has a very cinematic feel to it, as if it’s the final act of an epic film or something you would hear as the credits roll.
While Belzebubs started off as a comic, the fact that these slightly riskier choices of songs have been included is a clear indication that the creators have bigger plans ahead for the concept. After all, the last track is called ‘Maleficarum – The Veil of the Moon Queen, Pt. I’, so who knows what part 2 will entail?
While comparisons may be drawn with Metalocalypse and Dethklok, Belzebubs firmly stand with their own identity forging their own path. It will be interesting to see the concept continue to develop and evolve, we may even one day see animated shorts of Belzebubs. The success of Metalocalypse and desire for a final season is a clear indicator that there is a demand and adoration for Metal related media and Belzebubs could be the ones to fill the gaping void.
Recommended Tracks: Cathedrals of Mourning, Dark Mother
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