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Empyrium - "Into the Pantheon" (CD)

Empyrium - "Into the Pantheon" CD cover image

"Into the Pantheon" track listing:

1. Intro
2. The Days Before the Fall
3. The Franconian Woods in Winter's Silence
4. Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays
5. Heimwärts
6. Mourners
7. Die Schwäne im Schilf
8. Dead Winter Ways
9. Der Weiher
10. Many Moons Ago
11. Das blau-kristallne Kämmerlein

Reviewed by on November 26, 2013

"One won't find poetry directed to blue skies and butterflies on this album. While the music and lyrics certainly celebrate nature's splendor, they look to moments when the sun can't be found..."

Empyrium, the German purveyors of dark, symphonic folk metal, waited 17 years for a first live outing. Recorded in Leipzig in November 6th, 2011, "Into The Pantheon" is documented on CD, DVD and Blu-Ray. Empyrium seems a one-man project of Ulf Theodor Schwadorf, but playing bass, guitar, drums, percussion and singing at the same time is impossible, so just like the session players on his albums, he assembled several players for the live performance.

Joining Schwadorf is keyboardist/piano player Thomas Helm. In addition to his enshrouding atmospheres, Helm provides part of Schwadorf's vocal choir and he has been the one constant in the Empyrium camp over the past decade. Being the first live show, the group made sure it got everything right. These live renditions follow closely their studio blueprints, and the sound is impeccable. One difference between this concert of chamber music and a live death metal show is how clearly each instrument comes through the speakers.

The group's deep, Gothic vocal tones have always reminded me of Moonspell. Both bands work within the beauty in darkness motif and both use instruments outside of metal's bass-guitar-drum framework. Lyrically, though, Empyrium resembles Fins Amorphis and Insomnium in their odes to nature. One won't find poetry directed to blue skies and butterflies on this album. While the music and lyrics certainly celebrate nature's splendor, they look to moments when the sun can't be found ("The Franconian Woods in the Winter's Silence," "Dead Winter Ways," "Where At Night The Wood Grouse Plays.")

Although I won't call it doom, musically, the band is more in line with dark symphonic and folk music, but it’s not far off in pace and mood. There is a somber glow throughout the record represented by a cold wind blowing through the PA system during introduction parts. Cello, keys, piano, acoustic guitar, and violin all create lyrics of dark mysticism and utter sadness. Electric guitar is not the focus of the album, but rather another piece to the orchestra. Acoustics often push the tempo, and the drumming heard on "Mourners" and the militaristic beats of "Where At Night the Wood Grouse Plays" add an intense dynamic to the band's crawling pace. Also, check out the fast, acoustic picking on "The Franconian Woods In Winter's Silence."

While "Into the Pantheon" isn't an album to thrash your limbs wildly to, it does have its moments of metal. "Mourners" contains a doomy rhythm that gives the song movement and a bottom sprinkled with lamentations from a guitar of higher register. "The Franconian Woods In the Winter's Silence" features thorny voices, icy guitar tones, and pounding drums that should satisfy many fans of black metal. "Into the Pantheon" is all about mood. Press play if you're looking for the majesty of nature, have a winter chill inside you that can't be warmed, or are just looking for an album to unwind to.

Highs: The collection of varied instruments results in excellent arrangements and mood.

Lows: The band could boost the pace in a few spots to create greater dynamics.

Bottom line: Look elsewhere for something fast and heavy: this recording is all about mood.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)