We’ve talked about the pandemic so much, you’re probably really tired of hearing me reference it. Or you don’t care. Whatever. But it’s a tough subject to avoid because it has impacted all of our lives, though we don’t necessarily have to always immerse ourselves in the most tragic aspects. This thing also has been irritating as hell, completely altering the way we live in grating ways.
Kostas Panagiotou, the artist who drives funeral doom band Pantheist, is feeling that too, and that frustration floods over into “Closer to God,” the sixth full-length under this banner and one of the most interesting so far. He cites the pain of the lockdown, being cut off from people, playing videogames endlessly, and even basking in the majesty of Italian composer Ennio Morricone as themes of dealing with the pandemic, not all of them bad. It’s just that things can get tiring, and where do you channel that energy? Luckily for us, Panagiotou directed that toward “Closer,” and he even managed to expand the projects’ boundaries internationally, bringing in U.S. musicians in guitarist Jeremy Lewis and drummer John Devos, both of Mesmur, as well as French guitarist Frederic Laborde of Hidden in Eternity, and Welsh bassist Matt Strangis of Doubtsower to flesh out the recording. This makes for a very well-rounded record, one that still swims in doom darkness but also expands to more mind-altering terrain that makes for an even richer journey. It also has the weirdest cover art, but you’re likely not to forget it.
“Strange Times” is the 23:47-long opener, easily the longest track on the record. There’s a heavy sense of eeriness that floats over, trudging through dreamland, speaking to you in a voice that is easily understood yet still feels like it’s in a strange tongue. Then the power arrives and blows off the doors, blistering through dark atmospheres, melting into organs, stretching into the universe, and then wrenching your guts again. Growls rush as the keys split, things turn more elegant, and then the guitars open up an entirely new world of psychedelic exploration complete with choral sections and theatrical fireworks. The heaviness returns as the shrieks ravage, emotional keys blanket, and everything spirals into distant stars. That theme carries over into “Erroneous Elation” where keys create an intoxicating fog, Floyd-like acoustics brush, and the Morricone presence is felt heavily, making it feel like you’re gazing upon a western sky, watching the sun fade forever.
“Wilderness” dawns in a synth cloud and eventually is gutted with the growls sprawling from the wound. Spacious grimness surrounds as the track scrapes along, taking raised flesh along with it. The pace halts for a moment as the keys provide coolness, and the words, “For a moment, we can breathe a sigh of relief,” is something so many of us are striving to achieve. The song ignites all over again, the track heavily pummels, and everything concludes in mystical air and strange chorals. “Of Stardust We Are Made (and to Dust We Shall Return)” ends the record, starting with airy guitars and clean singing, the keyboard drizzling precipitation. The track has a Katatonia vibe for a stretch, and then the growls sink their teeth into flesh, a gothy gaze slowly blocking your vision. Rains and heat unite, increasing the enveloping fog as a chorus rises and works on your psyche. The playing keeps aiming for the sky, ascending, reaching out its arms, finally uniting with and disappearing into the clouds.
It’s hard to even grasp reality at times, something that’s thematically been woven into so much of what we have written the past two calendar years, something Pantheist try their hands at understanding on “Closer to God.” By uniting with musicians across the globe and trying to make some sense of madness, we get the most varied Pantheist record yet and one of the most approachable. That doesn’t mean this isn’t challenging; this is still a record that demands your attention and rewards it with music that’ll fill your imagination and perhaps find some understanding in a mire of seemingly unfriendly darkness.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Pantheistuk
To buy the album, go here: https://pantheistuk.bandcamp.com/album/closer-to-god