Album Review: Pantheïst’s Closer to God

Pantheïst — based in Wales, featuring an international lineup of musicians, and labelled as “cinematic funereal doom” — had managed to pass me by until now in spite of having existed for more than two decades.

I’m very glad, however, that my period of ignorance about their music has come to an end. That is because Closer to God, Pantheïst’s sixth album, is an album that delivers so much more than one might expect from a “doom metal” band, and does so with unique grace, sophistication and beauty.

Closer to God does indeed have monstrous and monolithic sludge riffs, thunderous drums, and all the rest of the usual doom elements, but it stands out in so many ways from most of the plethora of ostensibly similar releases.

Atmospherically, this album is exceptional. It seems to conjure up a vivid alternative reality — a strange and frightening yet awe-inspiring and beautiful world where the wonder of the cosmos meets with the dusty bleakness of the scorched desert.

Seamlessly sewn in with the huge doom riffs is a wide range of influences encompassing everything from Ennio Moriccione to choral music to Current 93 to David Gilmour’s guitar playing. Considering the overall sound this combination creates, comparisons could be made to Type O Negative, Green Carnation or My Dying Bride, but ultimately Pantheïst don’t sound quite like anyone else.

Founding member Kostas Panagiotou’s expertly growled death-doom vocals work perfectly over some of the heavier sections, but he really comes into his own when he sings melodically or half-speaks some lines. When he does this his voice is wonderfully weird — he sounds closer to David Tibet than Aaron Stainthorpe — but absolutely fits the music in an unexpected way.

The songwriting and musicianship here is outstanding. The melodies are instantly memorable, no instrumentalist puts a foot wrong and the four songs (ranging between 4:10 and 23:47) are incredibly well-structured. Sampled strings, real flute and recorder, acoustic guitars, and a variety of synth sounds add light, shade and texture and help to make this an engrossing and three-dimensional experience.

Both a sense of intense sadness and one of joyful elation run through this record. It is one of those albums that seems to tap into the full range of ineffable human experience, in doing so, opens the listener up to a kind of transcendental, spiritual experience.

The production, mixing and mastering give a crisp and clear sound that still has plenty of room to breathe so that the heavy sections really kick in with the weight they deserve, and all the elements of the more lush and layered sections can be heard with transparency.

Closer to God is a thing of rare refinement and elegance, but it sacrifices none of its visceral power for that. Everyone who appreciates heavy, progressive music and intense emotional experiences should listen to it.

Closer to God is out now on Melancholic Realm Productions.


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