Pantheon Of The Nightside Gods
Review by Fernando on June 19, 2019.
At first glance the musical project known as Belzebubs would seem completely ridiculous to most black metal and death metal enthusiasts; an album based on a comic that parodies black metal music and culture, complete with puns and jokes at the expense of the genre; in-jokes and Meta jokes. However while this project has had an unconventional origin (yes, even for black metal) the actual album spearheaded by J.P. Ahonen with the help of an impressive who's who of prominent metal artists which include I.C.S. Vortex (Borknagar, ex-Dimmu Borgir) and Lindsay Schoolcraft (Cradle of Filth) manages to be a derivative yet satisfying outing.
The album as a whole is a mix of melodic black/death metal inspired by Dissection with various progressive elements. The guitar work is fast, melodious and soaring, the bass is more subdued and the drumming is complex and layered. As a whole the musical chops here are all superb and do the job right. The vocal work is just as good as the rest of the performances and various sources and those with a keen ear have revealed that Niilo Sevänen of Insomnium fame is the voice of Belzebubs, he performs his usual raspy guttural growls albeit with a more forceful and aggressive delivery than his usual work in the latter band.
There’s a surprising amount of variety and experimenting on this album, which is interesting considering how much of a gimmicky novelty all of it seems. J.P. Ahonen spend no expense in giving his comic a good soundtrack and the album is at its best on the longer more epic tracks. "Acheron" and the title track have an operatic flair that reminds me a lot of the better Dimmu Borgir albums and Borknagar (made obvious by the fact that members of those bands show up here as guests) while still maintaining that sense of darkness shown in the previously mentioned Dissection influence; in those same long tracks there’s a lot of progressive elements like the sprawling guitar solos and the extensive use of keyboards. Most of the initiated decry the use of keyboards in black or death metal but in here they’re used very well, they help in giving the epic and opulent atmosphere that this album as a whole was planned to have. The shorter tracks have a focus on speed and aggression to complement the grandness of the longer tracks, "Blackened Call" which was also the first promo single hits the right sweet spot of a black and death metal hybrid and in here the keyboards are much more subtle.
All in all, this is a well put together and excellently crafted album, however, that isn’t to say that this album is completely flawless. The first major issue this album (and potentially the whole project) has is how very derivative it is of other more iconic bands. I mentioned Dissection twice on purpose because the influence is very blatant, granted being influenced by Dissection is certainly a good thing but the con of this is that the album seems to lack an identity, especially if you aren’t familiar with the web comic that inspired this album. The same goes for the prog influence from Dimmu Borgir and Borkanagar. I.C.S. Votex’s feature make the song he appears on sound a lot like his work on the bands he’s known for, and that’s a problem. The main issue as a whole here is that this album isn’t all that different to distinguish it from the literal hordes of black/death metal, melodeath and progressive bands out there. This album doesn’t reinvent the wheel or try anything beyond its influences and sticking to what works and once the initial novelty of this being the soundtrack to a web comic there really isn’t much to come back to.
That being said while this album certainly falls flat past the initial impressions what I do commend about this album is how this project will work as the perfect gateway drug for any new metalhead who’s never had a taste of the more extreme side of metal. It is well-produced and has enough edge to be niche while accessible enough for newbies to get into. I genuinely see this album and project working in a similar fashion to how Dethklok and the cult show Metalocalypse made death metal easy to get into. But I don’t expect this album to be heralded as a classic in any way, it’s good but I do recommend it in small doses.
Best tracks: "Blackened Call", "Pantheon of the Nightside Gods", "Dark Mother"
Rating: 8 out of 10