Belzebubs are not the sort of metal band one comes across often, in that the ‘band members’ presented to the public are actually fictional, animated characters! The band itself is a spin-off of the eponymous web comic. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s like a cross between Nemi, Metalocalypse and the Addams Family. The comic mainly follows Sløth the guitarist and vocalist of Belzebubs, and the day to day life of his band and family; it’s an affectionate parody of the black metal lifestyle and tropes.
Belzebubs’ web comic background might lead one to think that their debut album Pantheon of the Nightside Gods would be some sort of comedic novelty. However, despite their cute, comic aesthetic, there is surprisingly no element of humour or pastiche when it comes to their music. Just a solid album of well written melodic, symphonic black metal in the vein of Dimmu Borgir and Emperor. They’re surprisingly serious sounding and even slow things down a few times during the album to explore some flirtations with acoustic folk such as on the track ‘The Crowned Daughters’, which also incorporates lush baritone cleans giving the section a proggy, Opeth-like feel. These slower sections add atmosphere and provide respite between the more fast-paced sections.
The chord progressions are captivating and often pleasantly unexpected. Every instrument has a chance to shine – for example there is some nice melodic bass meandering on ‘The Crowned Daughters’. There are also plenty of solo keyboard melodies, often used as sombre, haunting intros and outros to tracks. Other notable features include haunting, resonating guitar squeals and atmospheric soprano choral backing vocals. The well-balanced mix and sharing of the limelight are likely thanks to production by the highly prolific musician and producer Dan Swanö (Nightingale, Witherscape and Edge of Sanity - to name but a few projects he’s been involved with).
The song ‘Cathedrals of Mourning’ is a notable highlight with melodies and chord changes which build anticipation and energy, and symphonic backing throughout giving an epic feel it’s not hard to see why this was one of the singles from the album, given its own dramatic yet wonderfully silly video.
Overall, there is not one bad song on this album and you can easily just find yourself being led from one epic song to another from start until finish, in one big sinister melodic adventure.
Recommended for fans of: Dethklok, Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Carach Angren, Wintersun, Rotting Christ, Runeshard
Rating: 9.5 /10