Canadian black metallers Panzerfaust‘s forthcoming album is the follow up to 2016’s The Lucifer Principle, which the band describe as a “full-length,” making The Suns of Perdition I: War, Horrid War Panzerfaust‘s fifth album. With only four tracks and clocking in at 25 minutes, personally, I’d be inclined to describe The Lucifer Principle as an EP. At just slightly over 31 minutes and comprising five tracks, I will give the Toronto natives a pass on their 2019 release’s claim to album status. Just. The Suns … I is the first part of their upcoming tetralogy1 and, more worrying than the album-EP question mark, is the disclaimer that comes with it and appears on Panzerfaust‘s social media also. This states that Panzerfaust write “about historical events and ideas that are often viewed as anathema” but this is not an endorsement of the same and no allegations of far-right/neo-fascist sympathies will be tolerated. Given the band’s chosen name, Facebook epithet,2 some of the song titles… this did give me pause.
Having established, however, that Panzerfaust quite literally pissed on the Westboro Baptist Church, as well as quoting Shakespeare’s Macbeth and covering Johnny Cash on The Lucifer Principle, I’m more than comfortable to take the band at their word and crack on with this review. While Panzerfaust appear to be a kvlt black metal band corpse paint and all, The Suns … I is an effective blend of industrial and black metal. Recalling early Red Harvest more than Darkthrone, the record roars into life with a pounding industrial blastbeat from drummer Alexander Kartashov and dirty, bass-heavy riffing. Over the top rides the dual vocal attack of the aptly-named Goliath and guitarist Brock “Kaizer” Van Dijk. Sometimes alternating vocal duties, sometimes teaming up to flatten all in their path, we are treated to throaty bellows, howls and, yes, a little black metal rasping too but less of that than one might expect.
Although short, The Suns … I‘s five tracks feel surprisingly satisfying and, on each listen, I reached the end feeling pleasantly battered and exhausted. I normally steer clear of song-by-song reviews but, with only four tracks of substance and melting pot of styles thrown in, it may be worth it on this occasion. As I say, the album leads off with a churning industrial feel on “The Day After ‘Trinity’,” before Panzerfaust move up through the gears on “Stalingrad, Massengrab.” This begins with straight up black metal but before long the blastbeats and trem-picked guitar give way to an ominous, atmospheric, which in turn kicks into a death metal groove reminiscent of Aeon-era Zyklon. “Crimes against Humanity” offers up no more than a claustrophobic drone before “The Decapitator’s Prayer,” after a deceptively slow intro, kicks you square in the spuds with a slab of blackened death. The 13-minute epic “Men of No Man’s Land” is the undoubted star of the show, however. It would be easy to dismiss this as simply doom-tinged post-metal but it’s so much more. Slathered in atmosphere, building in off-kilter folky elements and a distorted, harrowing rendition of the carol “Silent Night”/”Stille Nacht'”—it’s actually impossible to tell whether it’s in German or English—this is a bleak but starkly beautiful piece.
The production is generally good throughout, although on the first half of the The Suns … I—and this is perhaps personal taste—the drums and bass are too prominent in the mix, smothering the guitars. This is a particular shame on “Stalingrad, Massengrab.” That said, the sound is full and deep, and in keeping with the blackened industrial feel that runs through most of the record until the final track. It never strays into the territories that keep me away from some trver black metal – the cold, flat feel that I associate with the likes of 1349.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t choose to review Panzerfaust and, on the face of it, it’s not the type of thing that normally look to sink my serrated teeth into. It came to me because Madam X asked me to take it on. And I am actually rather pleased that saying no to Madam X is not an option, as I’ve been surprised how much I enjoyed it. On first listen, it felt a little unfocused, darting between genres and tones, and that still bothers me to a degree but not enough to prevent me scoring it highly. With each listen, it came together more and more for me, and I hope Panzerfaust can match, or even better, top this on the next part in The Suns of Perdition series.
- A tetralogy is defined, for artistic ventures, as “a group of four related literary or operatic works,” while in medical terms it is “a set of four related symptoms or abnormalities frequently occurring together.” Which is more apposite in this context? Read on. ↩
- “Panzerfaust is the boot stomping on a human face forever.” ↩