Panzerfaust – The Suns of Perdition – Chapter III: The Astral Drain Review

Canada’s Panzerfaust has been one of my favorite discoveries since joining AMG Industries, ever since I picked up the first part of The Suns of Perdition tetralogy for review back in 2019 and proceeded to underrate it. Underrating was not a problem when the second installment, Chapter II: Render unto Eden, arrived just over a year later. Indeed, that record went on to be my AOTY 2020. It is something of an understatement, therefore, to say that excitement levels were running high when I learned that promo for Chapter III: The Astral Drain had arrived. Feverishly, I summoned the spirit of the recently deceased Madam X to demand immediate delivery of the files. And you know the drill from here, right? I proceed to gush for slightly more than the permitted word count and award my third 4.5 this fucking year, pissing off mightily the recently widowed Steel Druhm. Right? RIGHT?!

It’s fair to say that, since The Suns of Perdition – Chapter I: War, Horrid War, Panzerfaust‘s stock has risen significantly (and justifiably). What has also risen, apart from my codpiece, is the length of these records. War, Horrid War was a very prim and proper 31 mins, while Render unto Eden clocked in at a meatier 44 mins and The Astral Drain has added a few more minutes. With this has come a subtle, but undeniable, change in style. Where War undoubtedly had subtlety, nuance and haunting beauty, it was compressed into a short and very immediate package, which punched you repeatedly in the face, before tenderly kissing it better. Render unto Eden lulled the listener, relying more heavily on slow-build atmospherics and repetition to make its excellent points. On The Astral DrainPanzerfaust have doubled down on what they began last time out. The progressive atmospherics dominate, with drummer and MVP Alexander Kartashov on his best and most progressive form to date but other elements are dialed back somewhat.

While lead vocalist Goliath still unleashes his earth-shuddering bellow at times, for much of the record he alternates between an echoing growl and razor-edged snarling rasp, as guitarist Brock van Dijk and bassist Thomas Gervais deal in brooding, downtempo atmospherics. Van Dijk’s trademark mournful, cascading melodies remain but in a stripped-back form on the likes of “B22: The Hive and the Hole” and epic opener “Death-Drive Projections.” It’s not until the second half of the album that Panzerfaust really hit their stride. When they do, however, that stride is as magnificent as ever, as the insistent urgency of the opening cymbal work on “The Far Bank at the River Styx” hints that the slow-mo, doom-laden pummelling and subsequent frantic tremolo beatdown you fell victim to on “Bonfire of the Insanities” was only the beginning. Every bit the equal of “Snare of the Fowler” and “Pascal’s Wager” from the last record, “The Far Bank…” borders on blackened melodeath in places, as its looping melancholic leads roll over the artillery of Kartashov’s drums and Goliath’s feverish roars.

Perhaps you can sense, however, that I am slightly holding back in my praise for The Astral Drain, and that is because it’s a record with an issue: the interludes. There are four of them, separating each of the five tracks proper. It’s perhaps telling to note that the track listing accompanying my promo doesn’t even include the interludes, which account for almost ten minutes of The Astral Drain. They add little but length to Panzerfaust‘s effort, in places somewhat ruining the gentle build dynamics and flow of the record, most notably what would otherwise be a perfect transition from “Bonfire of the Insanities” into probable song of the year “The Far Bank at the River Styx.” The final percussion-driven interlude, “Enantiodromia (Interlude)” offers the most of the four but, at over five minutes in length, its repetitive nature feels like the band ran out of ideas. The production on The Astral Drain is, as it has been for the last two The Suns of Perdition albums, excellent. There isn’t really much more to say on that front.

What to make then of Chapter III: The Astral Drain? While I must, of course, assess the record on its own merits, it’s impossible not to also look at it in context, namely as the third, and penultimate, instalment of The Suns series. Seen through that lens, it is the weakest of the three. Panzerfaust has still delivered a very good record but the first two tracks, “Death-Drive Projections” and “B22: The Hive and the Hole,” are good without carrying quite the heft or memorable moments of, say, “The Faustian Pact” from Render unto Eden. Couple this with the number, and disappointing nature, of the four interludes, and The Astral Drain begins to creak ever so slightly under its own weight. The other three tracks proper, and “The Far Bank at the River Styx” in particular, are great but the package as a whole comes up slightly short. With one entry left in The Suns saga, I hope Panzerfaust re-find their best form.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Eisenwald Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 22nd, 2022

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