Genre: Melodic Black / Death Metal
Label: Century Media Records
In case you have never heard of Belzebubs before, it is a metal webcomic focusing on our subculture with very good humor and well written stories, by Finnish artist JP Ahonen. Even if you don’t have the comic book yourself, there are plenty of images from its pages online and it is possible that you have seen it before somewhere in a comic fanpage or something related to that. Before one assumes that this is a review for the comic book itself, this is actually about an actual music album released by a band of fictional characters from this comic book, which is in general a very intriguing concept.
While Metalocalypse also exists, an American animated series of a dominant (in their universe) death metal band named Dethklok, Belzebubs is actually adopting black metal aesthetics in terms of appearance and member names, which is also supported by the purely black and white comic book and the fact that the characters there, maintain corpse paint in their everyday lives. And since Belzebubs is a cheesy name for a band, that I would initially discard if it were for a real life band as not taking itself seriously, within the context of a comic book band, it fits perfectly and it did ring a bell when I saw the promo track for “Cathedrals of Mourning”. I soon realized what was going on and went into “Pantheon of the Nightside Gods” full-bore.
The album opens with that promo track, which also has a nice video clip along with it, and it also is one of the catchiest songs in here. From its lyrics, and a couple of other tracks, as well as whatever I could make out from the listens, “Pantheon of the Nightside Gods” stands on great lyrics and that was partially expected, even though after listening to it whole, it can be approached as a record with very few black metal elements. There is a certain epicness deriving from the background piano keys and synths, which are frequently leading the compositions into what could be described as symphonic black / melodic death metal. In reality, most of the guitar work could easily be attributed to more easygoing genres like power metal (all of the virtuosic solos in the album sound close to heavy / power, listen to “The Faustian Alchemist” or the solo in “Cathedrals of Mourning”), or even plain symphonic metal.
The atmospheric builds in various tracks within the album would remind of a slightly heavier Nightwish record, with growls instead of female clean vocals, and that is also supported by the overall mild compositions in the whole album. The structure of the tracks is also that of very typical metal, which doesn’t remind of the unconventionality of early or recent black metal, but it is hard for me to classify this as melodic death metal even. The vocals are semi-shouting / screaming, not reminding of black metal once more, but they do fit the music very well, and it is true that “Pantheon of the Nightside Gods” has a great flow and a great production. Tracks like “Acheron” or “Num Gloria Lucifer” are entertaining, but other ones (“Blackened Call”, “The Werewolf Bride”) do not offer much, and of course “Cathedrals of Mourning” is a highlight track, and one of the most intense in the album.
After that, an actually heavy riff comes in the introduction of “Dark Mother”, the longest track in the record. “The Crowned Daughters” also displays clean vocals which are fairly good, despite the bland introduction of the track with acoustic guitars, that reminds of a waking up ringtone for your phone. There is a lot of symphonic work, keys in “Pantheon of the Nightside Gods”, some harsh vocals, extremely melodic guitars, creating an atmosphere that by no means reminds of extreme metal, despite the sparse elements.
Compositionally, most of the ideas in the album are good enough for a more mainstream metal audience, and I personally enjoyed listening to it, but I am surely keeping only a couple of tracks from it for further consumption. “Pantheon of the Nightside Gods” is a pleasant surprise and goes well with the concept of the creator’s comic book, but I think fans shouldn’t overestimate it but see it as what it is, a solid symphonic metal album, with some black / death parts. Not more or less.