Crow Black Sky // Pantheion
Rating: 3.5/5.0 —A promising start!
Release Dates: November, 2010
One of the things that people have been lamenting about the dawn of the Internet and how it will affect the future of music is that localized scenes no longer get localized sounds, and Crow Black Sky is definitely an example of this. Or more specifically, the South African metal scene seems to be a great example of this. See, Crow Black Sky is a melodic death metal band, whereas the other two bands that I’ve heard from South Africa (Heathens and A Walk with the Wicked) are black metal/black n’ roll and old school death metal. Due to access to music and information worldwide, it sorta kills that homogenization effect that gigging together, hanging out together and shopping at the same record store seemed to cause. Is it possible that the black metal scene from Oregon is the last cohesive scene we’re going to ever see? Well, that’s not actually relevant to this review. What is relevant to this review is that despite (or because of) the lack of homogeneity in the South African scene every single one of these bands that I’ve heard has been really very good. Crow Black Sky being no exception.
Pantheion is the band’s first full length release, and while really they should probably sell the thing as a demo because of the obviously programmed drums and the amateur mix, the music here speaks for itself. Crow Black Sky basically sounds like a cohesive blending of Swedish death metal ca. 1996. Obviously having huge Opeth and Amon Amarth influence, these tracks essentially sound like the best way you could blend those two bands. The death parts are highly melodic, with a lot of double bass grooves and things that make you rock out. While the guitar work is actually a step up on the kings o’ viking metal (that’d be Amon Amarth if you were wondering), it gives it a bit more of an In Flames or Nightingale kind of feel (should’ve gotten Swano to produce this thing). This is offset by long progressive passages that are straight out of Opeth‘s playbook. Add in some keyboards and black metal sensibility and you end up in the ballpark of Winterhorde. Not bad..
Vocally Pantheion is well-performed, not a lot of death metal growls but more in the range of Gothenburg death metal (mid-ranged screams). And what I can make out of the lyrics aren’t embarrassing, so the pass is given on that front. Really, the biggest weakness here is probably the fact that the record is so easily comparable to the Swedish metal scene of the late 1990s. But since the music is well-performed and well-written (and not just a total fucking knock-off), it’s easier for me to get into it. So while I can definitely hear the influences (particularly the Opeth stuff in the cleans, the beautiful melodies with just a few held out notes over some acoustic work [probably done with an eBow] just screeeeam Blackwater Park), the fact that they’re blended into each other and that the songwriting itself is very good means that I’m much more ready to just sit back and enjoy instead of being annoyed at how something might feel a tad derivative.
I have to give a shout out to these guys for something that one doesn’t often hear on demo records and self-produced albums and that is that there is a flow that this record has. Pantheion sports tons of instrumental passages (a daring thing in a world so vocalist-centric) and these help the record flow in a way that’s reminiscent of Nile (quite literally at the beginning of the title track “Pantheion”) and Symphony X‘s excellent V: The New Mythology Suite. This shows that the song-writing here isn’t just a fluke, these guys have serious potential. I give ’em a sophomore slump and the third record will be stellar if they make it that far.
You’ve been warned.