Album: Pale Whispers of a Writhing Moon
Release date: 01 January 2024
Format reviewed: High-Quality Digital Recording
So… I think I just stumbled across a future classic. Relentless act Panzerwar dropped Pale Whispers of a Writhing Moon right at the start of the new year, being one of the first albums to be released in 2024. And… What a Goddamn Release. This album is raw black metal done flawlessly, heck, it’s black metal done flawlessly, a truly eerie opus filled with incredible music and utter darkness, and I can see it being considered one of the best albums released in 2024, and we’re still in the first month.
Panzerwar are known for their constant stream of material which includes over 20 EP’s, Full lengths, demos and splits, each one being exceptional in their own right, establishing the band’s reputation as an underground power, surpassing most of their raw black metal counterparts in terms of songwriting and general approach of the genre as a whole, and I believe Pale Whispers of a Writhing Moon to be the perfect showcase of this band’s capacity to write unforgettable material.
Carnal Lycanthropic Lust opens up the tenebrous gates with a short intro ambient with particularly eerie qualities, which then plunges into a fast paced drum beat, followed by the guitars and the piercing screeches, along with a faded synth line in the background. All the instruments operate in what can be described as trademark black metal parameters, while carrying some of the best written melodies I have heard in a long time. The band’s Norwegian roots bare a strong influence on the overall sound and style in which the songs are written, which makes the album feel like an old time classic. The tempo varies between the faster and lower tempos at the chorus which accentuate the dramatism of the composition.
Haunting memories of war comes in on a mid paced tempo, accompanied by an ominous, yet slightly melancholic riff. The vocals break in and the drumming changes to a Taake style beat that comes of sounding very catchy and lets the guitars shine through in all their might. They speed up during the instrumental sections, but without crossing into super fast paced blast beats, maintaining their background role while still leaving a strong mark on the song in general. The guitar work is both simple and effective as it is unique and original, something that I find particularly appealing about this record as a whole. It proves that originality doesn’t necessarily stem from complexity and foreign elements, and also that there is still plenty to be done within the realms of black metal without needing to cross into other subgenres.
Solomon’s Blood starts out with an incredibly fitting synth intro with some vocal additions, that puts the emphasis on the more melodic and melancholic aspects of the album. The song itself is very atmosphere driven, as it has the synth passage mentioned previously as its melodic pattern, reoccurring throughout the track several times, tying all the elements of the song together. The tempo is much slower than those featured on it’s predecessors, and the guitar riffs are truly breathtaking, mixing the melody at the core of the song with the more aggressive elements of the album, and, of course, the out-of-this-world vocal performance, making Solomon’s Blood an impossible to miss banger.
Starting similar to its predecessor, Cold Steel Splits Warm Skin, also features a synth intro, a more ominous one albeit, and some battle tracks of swords clashing. It is soon followed up by an eerie riff that builds up on the atmosphere, before opening into what can be called a battle cry of a piece. It is a dramatic, undoubtedly epic and bone chilling piece, something straight of out the realms of Tolkien’s Minas Morgul. The occasional inclusions of synth and decorative riffs and quirks add a layer of depth to the song, giving it a boost of grandeur compared to its predecessors, and the riffs also seem to be more complex, bearing a little bit of a melodic black metal tinge in terms of songwriting technique.
The storm fades into Flesh Burnt Black which features a barely audible rain sound, accompanied by the knell of a bell, but don’t be fooled! The fiercest might of Panzerwar returns, this time with a classic black metal sound, the complete opposite of its predecessor. It is simple, effective, and it makes the horror crawl into your veins (in the best possible way). It is on the same level as Totenwache’s Der Schwarze Hort, with its reoccurring riffs that never cease to make the mind wander into the void, and, of course, a vocal performance that never misses anything, and one that will surely become a favorite of fans. To put it simply, if you want to get into Panzerwar, listen to Flesh Burnt Black. And the groovy passage at the end is just pure bliss.
Glorious Death comes in all guns blazing with a marching style rhythm and another round of infectiously groovy guitar riffs. The vocals soar high above in screeches as the speed builds up into blast beats before returning to the original tempo once again. I find the title of this particular track very fitting, because it fits perfectly. It is the soundtrack of Death marching across the earth. It is another one of the more dramatic songs on the album, with the grandeur of the music on full display for the listener to enjoy. I can’t seem to get enough of this song, and once it gets to you there is no going back, you ARE going to get addicted (although this applies to the album as a whole as well)
Returning to the more eerie soundscape we have Ritual of Suffering, a despair filled track with strong tempo alternations, soul crushing guitar work, and the epitome of inner darkness, to put it simply. This one, along with the remaining songs on the record, are the best on the album in my opinion, but this particular one stands out to me due to how well crafted it is. There is so much going on, from the unrelenting passages of tremolo and blast beats to the doomy, synth infused ones which reek of misanthropy, despair, and above all, utter suffering. This album in the audible representation of a tormented human soul who continues to be haunted by its despair long after his days have ended. Just like in the case of its predecessor, the song title fits like a glove, the track being truly a Ritual of Suffering.
Monumental decay evens out the many elements on Ritual of Suffering, offering a much more stable, balanced composition, which allows the listener to catch a break, but while also keeping you completely hooked to the music, which lacks none of the previously metioned qualities. Moreover, it seems to be heavily oriented in creating a balance between the classic and creative elements of the record, which is actually what gives the song the charm it carries. It’s very easy to vibe with, but without toning down the darkness and eerie nature of the other songs.
Another extremely catchy song is Path of Ruin, another incredibly well crafted song with plenty of tempo alternations, riffs that stick to your ears, but with a slightly stronger emphasis on the drumming than on the previous tracks, pushing them right in the front, making them the central element of the composition, but without overwhelming or overshadowing the guitars and vocals. I would consider it another one of the gateway songs for Panzerwar given the mentioned elements, and one could argue that this is the best song on the whole record. The second half of the song is pure perfection, the guitars carrying a strong wisp of emotion over the now stable blast beats and unrelenting screams.
Ashen Imperator wraps up the opus with a strong flair of doom, having a particularly low paced rhythm at its core, but which occasionally speeds up into more melodic and eerie passages, bringing together all the pieces that make Pale Whispers of a Writhing Moon such a great album, and this track in particular, is the perfect way to end it. It is the perfect summary of all there is to be found on this record, and if you happen to listen to it and enjoy it, which is guaranteed, you will certainly fall in love with the album as well. This song is power, might, and grandeur, all wrapped up in the shroud of cold and death. It leaves a strong impression, that is guaranteed to linger in your mind long after the album has ended. The ending slowly fades into another synth passage, which ties together beautifully with the beginning of the record, and thus the circle is complete.
I am more than precise that my words until now have at least tried to make justice to this masterpiece. With every listen I find new details that make everything more and more interesting as time goes by, and I am more than sure that it will become one of my favorite albums of all time. This one is a must of every extreme metal fan, period. I am more than sure that it’s impossible not to like! 10/10 Ioana
10/10 Immortal Classic
**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre**