Theosophy – Towers of Dark Pantheon Review

I was going to take this week off. Contrary to what you might expect, being unable to go to a physical office (as I am) actually lowers the amount of music I consume on a regular basis. I’ve scarcely listened to anything that I’m not writing a review for in weeks, and it’s been starting to get to me. So I decided to take a break. No review-writing, just for a little bit. I came really close to pulling it off too, but a late addition to the promo pit piqued my interest, and all was lost. Theosophy had come, and the next thing I knew I was sampling the Russian quartet’s take on thunderous black metal via their fifth full-length, Towers of Dark Pantheon. I was so close. But I do not regret.

Towers of Dark Pantheon has a big, dark, dramatic sound. The album opens with its title track, a sprawling, mid-paced monster that sets the tone for the rest of the album admirably. The tremolo riffing is well-designed for head nodding and marching armies onto enemy settlements, while the verses slide up and down the fretboard triumphantly. I’m impressed knowing that there’s only one credited guitarist in Theosophy; across Towers of Dark Pantheon, Egiborg’s fret-work is everywhere, claustrophobic and dark. His playing is complimented greatly by the growling of Phantom’s bass, louder in the mix than is typical, but welcome all the same. “Where Thunder Reigns” is a great example of the sound, a raw assault of thunderous black metal led by Skinner’s blast beats and Phantom’s snarling (this time I mean his voice). Throughout a consistent 40-minute runtime, Theosophy demonstrate a flair for dramatic, powerful compositions that remind me of a less symphonic Mistur, and perhaps faintly of a more symphonic Immortal.

The symphonic element to Towers of Dark Pantheon is only slightly stronger than subtle, but nevertheless plays a role in softening the edge of the material without dulling it completely. String and choral keys, courtesy of one Eeks Eye, enhance songs like “Curse of Ak-Kadyn” and “Full Moon Triumph” without diminishing Theosophy’s aggression or power. Nowhere near levels of, say, Dimmu Borgir, Theosophy nevertheless effectively channels an ethereal, powerful vibe into their music while keeping the guitar work as their primary focus. Personally, I’m a sucker for the combination, and always have been. It works really well here. The faint echo created by the keys on “Even the Dead Cast Shadows” enhances the somewhat reverent, surprisingly upbeat verses and interludes that make the song great.

I’ve done a lot of praising so far, but there are two issues I have with Towers of Dark Pantheon that keep me from really falling head over heels for it. The first is in the vocal lines. While Phantom is certainly a capable black metal vocalist – his snarls are filled with more than enough malice to succeed for the style – there is very little variation in his performance. Across the record, there are a great many spots that practically demand a scream, a howl, a rasp, a something (looking at you, “The Sword of Erlik”), but his performance remains frustratingly consistent regardless. Apart from a few (welcome) narrations towards the end of the album, the vocals never really change their form.

My second issue is the fade-outs. Specifically, on an eight-track album, there are six songs on Towers of Dark Pantheon that end this way; only two dive for the throat and end with impact. This adds up to a lot of hollow moments that could have been “what a great song” punch-in-the-chest moments, the kinds that black metal excels at. The album closer, “From Eternity to Past,” is one of the two aforementioned songs, and its final measures are easily among the best of the album. This discord really highlights an aspect of something being missing that is hard to overlook when it happens over and over again.

Still, between the solid songwriting, impactful performances, and affinity for a march-your-army-to-victory-or-death kind of adrenaline, Theosophy have carved out a strong album in Towers of Dark Pantheon. The album is consistent, dark, and dedicated, and I’ve enjoyed every spin since receiving it. I do like to think I’ll take that break eventually, but if the promo pit keeps throwing Theosophies and Towers of Dark Pantheons at me, you’ll all be stuck with me for a while yet.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Sliptrick Records |
Released Worldwide: May 5th, 2020

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