Pantheist
O Solitude

A Belgian band I’ve never heard of and A Finnish label I’ve never heard of equals an album of the year contender? Weird, huh? Doom metal has been in kind of a slump over the last few years, never able to find the glory of the early 1990’s, despite welcome recent efforts by Shape of Despair, How Like a Winter, Novembers Doom, and Poema Arcanus. The “doom” genre has somehow been morphed into the sludge/fuzz sub-genre, and finds itself almost forgotten as true genre of its own, and being referred to as “funeral doom”, on the back burner of metal’s vast pigeonholing.

 

Well, that is about to change, as Belgium’s Pantheist, along with Ireland’s Mourning Beloveth are primed to resurrect a European funeral doom scene. O Solitude is one of those rare albums that wills you into expressing emotion. In a dark room, with your favorite mind altering substance O Solitude will have you on the verge of clinical depression, utter self-loathing, despair and brooding anger. It’s an album of such magnitude, that it may even make you cry. In the truest sense of funeral doom, you get five songs, ranging from eight minutes to 18 minutes, all massive dirges of soul-crushing material. However, Pantheist has enough things going for them to stand out from much of the three-note drone crowd.

 

Within their oppressive sound they have blastbeats, some chunky death metal, and most overbearing of all, the use of utterly captivating synths, which when mixed with the bottom end riffing, mournful growls and monkish chants, produce an overall sound that will make you wilt with despair. What I enjoyed about their epically morose sound was the lack of lengthy intros, Pantheist get right to the point with the album first two songs, no drawn out atmospheric intros or acoustics, the riffs ooze from the speakers immediately creating a taught ambience of their own. The opening title track has such a massive weight with its church organs and haunting double bass cello that you are instantly drawn into a vast void of truly saddening atmosphere, the likes of which no band has been able to capture since My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost’s first albums. It is also a song that displays Pantheist’s ability to throw a major curve ball. Whereas as, say, Shape of Despair are content to stay at a snail’s pace for an entire song, for the song’s last two minutes Pantheist crank out a pretty impressive pace that few doom bands can pull off. “Don’t Mourn” pulls of an even more somber feel, as the pace slows down to a ridiculously rueful crawl.

 

The vocals are primarily delivered with the chanting style, that’s both beautiful and completely heart rending. It creates an image of a desolate, derelict church, vast yet strangely comforting. But even at 14 minutes it never gets dull, as halfway through it morphs into a more angry solemn lurch, then a full on death metal attack. This ability to perform at a far more challenging pace, separates Pantheist from the crowd, as it makes the songs that much more evocative. “Don’t Mourn” lulls you into a depressive coma, slaps you into a more alert state, and then drags you back down into the depths of sorrow. “Time” starts with some utterly crestfallen riffing over massive church organs and chanting, before building into a more familiar My Dying Bride groove and finally a rare climactic doom metal blastbeat. Even being the album’s shortest track, it conveys more despondency than many recent doom albums alone. “Envy Us” starts with a pretty cliched piano intro, but as the guitars erupt with the lethargic gait of a mammoth on valium, you truly feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of Pantheist’s sound. It’s not just the downtuned guitars, the eerie organs or the forlorn growls and chants, but the entire mix that creates an atmosphere so thick with sadness at times it defies words.

 

 The album closes with the immense, 18 minute “Curse the Morning Light”, and unlike many doom metal albums, I’m still enthralled, rather than asleep. The song itself is an epic display of crushing doom, but its climactic ending is of particular notice and hymnal style and marching delivery, gives the album s solemn yet hopeful end note. Despite the deathly lyrics, death appears as a respite from sorrow, and it ends the album with a triumphant feeling, a feeling of satisfaction and closure. Rarely has an album affected me as emotionally as O Solitude did. Sitting in my basement after four glasses of Spanish raisin wine, I felt the album’s force pass over me and bear down without mercy. I sat still for its entirety, unable to move, simply crushed by the massive lugubrious mood it evokes. A simply awe inspiring album.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
April 10th, 2003

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