Panphage - DrengskaprOne-man black metal projects are like rats nowadays; you’re never more than a few meters away from one at any given time. Okay, I may have made that up, but there does seem to be quite a surplus of them knocking about at the moment. While this abundance of choice is great for those of us who like our music bleak and wintery, with every man and his dog getting in on the act, cutting through the chaff and finding material actually worth listening to can seem like a pretty mammoth task. Headed up by sole member Fjällbrandt, Swedish black metal project Panphage has spewed out a raft of raw but quality material almost yearly since its inception in 2005, however, it was only last year that heralded Storm — the first full-length studio album under the Panphage name. This year’s follow-up, Drengskapr, is set for release on November 18th, and despite having been a fan of earlier demos, I admit that Panphage had fallen off my musical radar almost entirely for the past few years. I was eager therefore to hear what the project’s more recent material brought to the table.

Drengskapr tells the tale of Grette Asmundsson — a famed outlaw of the old Icelandic sagas — and the wistful, prosaic nature of ancient folklore bleeds through into the music heavily. Stylistically Panphage’s sound has always been stark, stripped down and fast, keeping in line with the characteristics typical of the early Scandinavian black metal scene, and for the most part, Drengskapr stays true to this formula. The introduction to opener “Grettir Àsmundarsonar” eases the listener in gently before going straight for the jugular with a Marduk-esque wall of tortured howls and tremolo-picked riffage. In a manner not dissimilar to that of fellow countrymen Dark Funeral and Watain, however, Fjällbrandt’s take on black metal ebbs and flows. It’s vitriolic for sure, but there’s more to it than plain aggression, with simple but well-written riffs complementing each other and tempo changes sounding self-assured and confident.


Handling all of the instrumental duties himself, there’s little doubt of Fjällbrandt’s prowess as a musician, and Drengskapr showcases his talents magnificently. His guitar work is uncomplicated but effective, with clever touches that stick in the memory and little nods to his black metal brethren throughout. The soaring hooks of “Landrensningen,” for example, are hauntingly reminiscent of the infectious melodies of Forefather, and the neat embellishments of “Drangey” have Taake stamped all over them. To add to the folkish character of the music, keys are also utilized, albeit sparingly. With the exception of the almost Enya-like interlude “Glamsyn,” they rarely take center stage, however, much of the record features an almost choral background drone, adding depth to each track without at any point becoming overbearing.

Panphage 2016Production is intentionally basic but not overwhelmingly so. All of the instruments are perfectly audible and the slightly tinny tone does not detract from the music in the slightest; instead lending it a cold, frosty quality that complements Panphage’s style well. It’s difficult to find much drastically wrong with Drengskapr to be honest, although I do have a couple of minor gripes. The majority of tracks start out with the gentle sound of lapping water, possibly at the edge of some distant lake in the Scandinavian wilderness. While this is effective in its first instance, it’s overused and thus ends up becoming repetitive and tiresome. Additionally, final track “Blodshämnd” feels far longer than it needs to be. While it features plenty of good material, there’s simply not enough to warrant drawing it out to its full nine-minute running time, and this is a shame as it makes the final few minutes of the record feel a bit on the stale side.

Its faults notwithstanding, however, in Drengskapr Fjällbrandt has written a highly enjoyable record that does more than enough to make itself stand out in what is rapidly becoming something of a over-saturated talent pool. While it may not win Record o’ the Year, it’s engaging, memorable and has atmosphere by the bucketload, and is well worth a listen for any fan of the ever-expanding gray area that inhabits the zone in between the black and folk metal genres. Panphage amassed an enormous back catalog of demos before venturing into LP territory. The project’s newest offering is the product of over a decade’s worth of experience, and Drengskapr is an impressive example of hard work paying off.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nordvis Produktion
Websites:  panphage.bandcamp.com facebook.com/Panphage
Releases Worldwide: November 18th, 2016

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  • AngryMetalBird

    I do love that track but that photo man…. that photo!!!

    • It’s like Marty McFly raided a neofolk band.

    • André Snyde Lopes

      Someone call The Unicorn!

    • Hulksteraus

      The evil mall rat. Check out the old school hi-tops and adidas trackies… maybe the evil hip hop gimp…

    • Lord Lucan

      Playing folk-inspired black metal and holding up convenience stores is all in a day’s work for our Fjällbrandt. What a trooper!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      What a mess of a picture… Acoustic guitar, Adidas sweatpants, white hi-top 80s thrasher shoes, balaclava, those white things hanging about his face which I guess are the string tie for the hood of his hoodie… Good thing it was just a “one-man”.

      • Innit Bartender

        For me it’s the acoustic guitar that makes it TRVE. Otherwise he might get seriously mistaken for a RunDMC fan that got lost in the woods….

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          He could/should(?) have gone for a B.C. Rich to get that pointy look. Only pointy is TRVE.

          • Innit Bartender

            I hear you. But then a BC Rich is not much use in the woods, unless you also brought a solar-powered amplifier. With an acoustic you can still play a song dedicated to wolfs or the moon or baby bears….
            And yet when we’re talking about BC Rich I can’t get past that Jenna Jameson photoshoot….

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I didn’t even know Jenna Jameson did a photo session with a BC Rich guitar! When I think BC Rich I think waaaaay old Slayer and Deicide.

          • The Unicorn

            She popped one of her knockers on the pointy axe…

      • [not a Dr]
        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I should have said “goddamned hippie guitar” and that would be me talking like a great-grandpa…

        • strychnin

          nice

    • herrschobel

      i think it´s swedish irony

    • Gaëtan Baratin

      He’s ready to cheeki breeki with that adidas tracksuit

    • Mr T

      If you are in a one man band you are going to create your masterpiece in sweatpants. Anyone in corpse paint on a one man band pic is a poser :)

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Sweatpants are for posers! NO PANTS is the way to go. What’s the point of making it a one-man band if you’re going to wear pants?

        • Mr T

          It is cold in sweden. And frostbitten.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Icicles for testicles.

        • The Unicorn

          I agree with this. Pants are for poseurs.

  • Reese Burns

    This one’s flown under my radar, but I’ll have to fix that, this sounds pretty rad.

  • Treble Yell

    Really solid review. The Taake mention makes me want to check this out.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Angry Metal Guy (the website, not the… well, Angry Metal Guy himself) should do an article about the best one-man Black Metal bands (or albums) of all time. Just to find out if anything worthy ever comes out of one-man bands.

    • Leviathan and Patrons of the Rotting Gate say hi.

      • Feytalist

        Aquilus also says hi.

        • AngryMetalBird

          Thanks for that one!

          • Phil

            Mare Cognitum? Gallowbraid?

        • Dudeguy Jones

          Saor

      • Lord Lucan

        As do Panopticon and Falkenbach

        • Marc Rikmenspoel

          Falkenbach hasn’t been one-man in almost 15 years. Vratyas/Tummers writes all the music, but then just does the clean vocals and keyboards. Vindsval (aka Le Grande Guignol), a band signed to his old label, are his backing band. The guitarist, Patrick Damiani, also engineers the recordings, which are done at his studio in Germany. Philip Breuer does the harsh vocals, and Michel Spithoven drums.

          • Lord Lucan

            Recording lineup notwithstanding, ideologically Falkenbach is and always has been a one-man show.

          • herrschobel

            well then let´s add cobalt to the rooster…which ‘ideologically’ is also a one man show…and a very good one imho

          • Lord Lucan

            Isn’t the new fella considered a full-time member? Good band though.

          • herrschobel

            i am not sure..i always think Erik Wunder when i hear Cobalt. but i have been told to have a highly selective perception :-)

    • IBlackened

      Bathory? (Early) Burzum?

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Even though Bathory was one man’s show (Quorthon’s) it wasn’t actually a one man band except for the last 3 albums. Quorthon had additional musicians playing bass and drums between 1983 and 1997.

        • IBlackened

          Yeah, I know. I mentioned him because he wrote everything in Bathory and the other guys were just studio session musicians.

    • The Unicorn

      Yeah that pic is the pits man, the PITS.

    • TLFernandes

      Anything???? Is this a serious question? Have you ever heard about Burzum???

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Oh yes, serious question. And of course I’ve heard of Burzum. I just don’t like Burzum that much.

    • Innit Bartender

      Seconded!

    • herrschobel

      definitely not Burzum that overrated piece of nationalist crap…rant over…i don’t get why people, in 2016 !!!!, still bring Burzum into this. There are sooooo many more advanced and musically rewarding solo projects than that…you can tell what “good” Marketing can do to a human brain …. kill a guy and everybody will treat you like a Black Metal God. well not everybody. check Leviathan / Xasthur / Fuath

      • Lord Lucan

        Although more recent Burzum material hasn’t particularly taken me, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Det Som Engang Var were masterful. Varg may be a despicable excuse for a human being but that doesn’t nullify the significance of his contributions to the black metal scene over the years.

        • herrschobel

          yeah yeah i know !!! but the word ‘Burzum’ always gets me mad… i don´t know…i think it’s a medical condition.

          • “Burzum sickness.” Seek professional help immediately!

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Burzumitis?

          • Lord Lucan

            Sounds like an STD

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Gotta be an ugly thing having to explain to one’s wife how you got that Burzumitis. Uglier still if you got the Burzumitis from her and have to ask her to explain.

          • herrschobel

            good lord ! my man parts have gone nationalistic !

          • strychnin

            its like reading the Bible and thinking of crusades?

    • Elton Chagas

      Spectral Lore? Dude…

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I will check them out

    • Reese Burns

      ..Vardan? But if the site ever did publish a list, I would sure enjoy of deep listicle

    • bhoodlum

      Avichi.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Seems like I opened a can of worms. Heck, a steel drum of worms!

    • herrschobel

      well and then there is striborg…love it or hate it…but it gives me the creeps…very unpleasant ‘Music’ …

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        In fact Striborg is the first and foremost thing that comes to my mind when I think “One-man band Black Metal”.

    • Albert

      This album from Panphage is very good! But I think you definitely need to listen to Spectral Lore and Macabre Omen. I am serious :)

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        If you’re serious what’s the smiley face for? ; )

    • Dudeguy Jones

      Invisible Oranges did just this very thing a few days ago. They did it as a ranked list. Mare Cognitum was considered #1.
      Spectral Lore was also rated high.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Thanks for the tip up! I don’t usually read Invisible Oranges but that’s one article I’m willing to check out.

    • The Unicorn

      Panopticon?

  • Lord Lucan

    I’m pleased to report that this bloke’s music is considerably better than his fashion sense. Appearances can be deceptive.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      It wouldn’t take much…

  • Elton Chagas

    Damn!

    Is there anything more black metal than to be in the middle of a dark forest wearing ADIDAS pants, NIKE sneakers, holding an acoustic guitar with a ski mask?

    • Nag Dammit

      Only thing more kvlt would be a pair of black rhinestone man Uggs.

  • Wilhelm

    The photo screams “Just because I have a solo Scandinavian black metal band doesn’t mean I’m an asshole” The music is quite good too.

    • Lord Lucan

      I’m inclined to agree. So long as he continues to write decent music he could wear a pink leotard for all I care.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        If he begins wearing that (bright neon) pink leotard you’re talking about, I REALLY hope he keeps that picture to himself.

  • IndignantN00b

    I love the picture in much the same way I love Immortal pics and etc. And I don’t mean ironically. The music is pretty tight too- reminds me of the first Taake album. Last few years have been just terrible for BM imo but this and the recent Inquisition should get me through 2016, anyway.

    • Zac Melvin-McNutt

      Last few years have been terrible for black metal? Bruh? Mgła, Misþyrming, Inquisition, Shrine of Insanabilis, Outre, Leviathan, Death Fortress have all put out some stellar material in the past few years.

      • IndignantN00b

        Mgla haven’t moved me since Further Down the Nest. It’s fine it just sounds like generic Polish bm to me. I couldn’t get into what I heard of Misþyrming altho I admit that could be my problem. Death Fortress just hits me lesser Hate Forest. Haven’t heard Shrine or Outre but I’ll check them out- hoping it’s not post-rock like 9/10ths of what gets hyped these days. I mentioned Inquisition and yeah Leviathan is still flying the flag. But past them, the only bm bands doing anything for me have been Obsequaie, Vindland, and those Dispirit demos.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Obsequiae kicks ass with both feet at once.

  • Berit Dogg

    I usually don’t get black metal and this isn’t one of the exceptions. Maybe if he’d sounded more like the guy in the picture…

  • strychnin

    The embedded track is pleasant but sounds like a copy of Istapp. Unsure if even the author is aware of it.

    • Lord Lucan

      I wasn’t. Panphage has been around for the same amount of time but has released far more material over the years. I’m only passingly familiar with Istapp but I gather they’re quite good though.

      • strychnin

        Actually, I ment Panphage and not you, but I take it I wasn’t clear. Istapp is great, at least Blekinge, which in fact is their only output I know by memory, so my notion wasn’t objective either. Anyway, thanks for the review!

        • Lord Lucan

          No problem, I misunderstood your previous post. I’ll have to take some time out to listen to Istapp in more detail :)

  • madhare

    Can’t help reading the artist name as “wannabe”. Or maybe it’s kvlt spelling “vannabe”. …which sums up lot of black metal actually. :D