REVIEW: Pantokrator – Incarnate [2014]


Artist: Pantokrator

Album: Incarnate


It’s said all things were first born from nothing—that from dismal, black darkness there arose light and matter—and it was in this way that all things as we know it were created. Whether or not this holds true for our planet, as well as our species is a topic of incessant debate, but it is certainly true as far as Pantokrator’s unique blend of progressive, punishing death metal is concerned. Tidal waves of symphonic, ethereal atmosphere crash head on into slamming, visceral heaviness over a canvas of deep, dark instrumentation to create a multifaceted listening experience that grabs the listener by the throat and drags them into the realm of lacerating and intense musicianship dominated by these Swedish shredders.

Pantokrator waste no time in attacking the listener with over-the-top amounts of intense atmosphere. In this manner, sections like the introduction to the epic “Millennium in Chains” take complete control of the listener’s mind, captivating them with awe. Symphonic, arching riffs soar sky-high over break-neck percussion and intense, low bass tones to create an experience that is both brooding and dark while light and melodic. Incarnate carefully treads this tightrope during all of its vast instrumental soundscapes—where high-fretted cathedrals of boundless, carefully crafted atmosphere are built over a tumultuous and quaking foundation of intense and battering percussion. Carefully—but magnificently—Pantokrator tread this tedious tightrope of talented, immersive song structure until the moment is either transcended—lifted from a limbo of perfectly-balanced musicianship—by serene, crystal-clear harmonization and intriguing clean vocals or doomed, burdened with gruff, intense growls and chug-laden grooves to match.

An enormous majority of Incarnate is spent in a manner fitting to its name—visceral, intense and life-like. It pulverizes the listener with combinations of intensely technical and vibrant death metal that has just splashes of black metallic influences—manifested best in the dismal opening portions of “Sammath Naur” and “Cast Down.” Likewise, the shorter, more aggressive tracks like “Revolution” and “Incarnate” are home to a chug-laden, groove-friendly metalcore feel that goes straight for the listener’s throat. All the while, the same balancing act of sky-high, soul-freeing shred and doom-and-gloom heaviness rages on; tipped only by the roaring, intense and low growls Pantokrator unleash upon the listener. Simply put, Pantokrator are a gymnast perched precariously on a balancing beam of dynamic instrumentation—wherein upon one side lies intense, visceral heaviness and the other holds serene, soulful atmosphere. The vocals are the delicate wind that provides just enough sway to push them one way or another.

What allows Pantokrator to stand out from the likes of their peers is their ability to range from one end of the death metal and metalcore spectrum to the other—a progressive, ethereal metal that reaches deep into the listeners chest and palpates their soul. “Millennium in Chains” and “O’Kevandring” are prime examples of this. Where other tracks waste little time in assaulting the listener with bellowed vocals and brutalizing instrumentation, these tracks craft an immersive monastery of sound, woven deeply into the firmament of faith and feeling with catacombs of cunning and creative instrumentation. Fantastically fretted and symphonic riffs roar as the drumming bounces along with a splashy and catchy candor. Not to be forgotten, the vocals take a less aggressive tone—even singing in the case of “Icarus Burning”—and allow the instrumentation to exist as a soft, yet enveloping blanket of faith-driven warmth.

Incarnate stays true to its name and allows Pantokrator to embed itself firmly in the listener’s flesh. Bold, blackened heaviness leaves dents, bruises and broken bones in the listeners body, but uplifts the listener’s mind and opens their heart. To put it in a concise and simple manner, Pantokrator have created the manifestation of metallic mastery out of what seems like nowhere, allowing dynamic atmosphere to blend beautifully with daunting, destructive heaviness without any enormous hiccups.



For Fans Of: A Hill to Die Upon, August Burns Red, Frost Like Ashes, Antestor

By: Connor Welsh