Panychida – Gabreta Aeterna Review

At college, I had a pal whose parents lived in a small, sea-side house a few hours away. There were two roads available to us when we wanted to visit: one well-paved, smooth and quick, the other slow, pot-holed and rutted, with a meandering route that twisted around the sea cliffs and over dramatic plunges. Without exception, we always took the scenic route, primarily because it was more fun. But it was also more interesting, rewarding the extra time and effort with great views and interesting sights. I thought about this while listening to Gabreta Aeterna, the fifth album from Czech black metal band, Panychida. A lot of black metal albums are the smooth highway; Gabreta Aeterna is the twisty, jagged dirt-road. If you’re simply looking for the most efficient way to get from A to B, this isn’t the trip for you. But if you’re someone who eyes out the rickety sign that points to a more interesting journey, then oil that engine, replace those brake-pads and correct that misaligned axle, ‘cos you’ve come to the right review.

Panychida began as a fairly meat-and-‘taters black metal project in 2004, but has gradually been expanding its sound to include a greater emphasis on the classic heavy and thrash bands of yore. Gabreta Aeterna is the band’s most expansive and diverse effort yet, going all-in on the thrash, complete with righteous solos and rock-with-your-cock out passages. The album bills itself as a trip through the Šumava mountains in Bohemia. I’ve never been there, but if this is an accurate representation, this range contains a secret metal festival featuring Wolves in the Throne Room, Dzö-Nga and Skeletonwitch all sharing a stage, with a grimy port-a-loo staring forlornly on. Basically, my kinda place.


The best thing about Gabreta Aeterna is that despite the multiple genres it includes, it never loses its core identity as a black metal album. The thrash, folk and pagan elements combine organically to form entertaining and compelling additions to a well-established, thick and punchy sound. In other words, the expansions augment; they do not blur. These combinations are also smartly done: opener “Bílý Samum” creates a traditional tremolo-filled based base around which it explores a more old-school metal sound. Second track, “Nikoho pán, nikoho sluha” reverses this template, beginning with a classic heavy riff before the tremolos enter. It’s a neat trick and the album is filled with smart, entertaining moments like this. The smashing guitar midway through “Valenca besneri” that segways the song from black metal to black ‘n roll; the sinuous synthesizers in “Totenbretter” that create an ominous urgency in contrast to the mid-paced metal before it. These all add up to a varied, interesting and well-paced listen.

The main criticism is that the thrash and rock elements occasionally deprive Gabreta Aeterna of the punch it’s clearly aiming for. Exploring all these ideas results in an album that occasionally flounders as it tries to accommodate the myriad different styles competing in every track. “Černou nocí míhá se černý stín,” for example, can’t decide if it wants to be dissonant, atmospheric black metal or folksy, jaunty black ‘n roll, and ends up sounding like neither.  The embrace of thrash is also sometimes taken a little too far, with some awkward moments: the high-pitched yelp at the beginning of “Abele,” for example, sounds weird and forced, but is mercifully short-lived.

Nevertheless, Panychida has created a thoroughly enjoyable little gem here. It’s black metal that’s fun without being toothless. It expands upon its predecessors without forgetting what made them compelling. It forges its own path while remaining accessible to fans of the pagan metal genre. Like the trip to my pal’s place, the road itself may not be completely smooth, but the highs vastly outnumber the lows, and the occasional, minor potholes are a small price to pay for the unique experience. Gabreta Aeterna is an unusual journey, but one worth taking.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Folter Records
Websites:  |
Releases Worldwide: November 27th, 2020

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