Welcome to Bedlam!
I can think of no better greeting to give you for the lawlessness, the pandemonium, the sheer uproarious (and often macabre) extravagance that awaits you within Sepulcher’s new album, Panoptic Horror. The faint of heart will shy away, but those who hunger for the taste of barely contained yet sharply executed mayhem will find a true home here.
Apart from their talent for discharging explosive energy, this group of Norwegian marauders have a lot of other qualities to recommend them, all of which are triumphantly displayed on these seven ravaging tracks. Their sound, for example, is quite distinctive. Among the numerous stylistic ingredients in their music, you’ll find death metal, d-beat punk, thrash, and occult psychedelia — all of which are expertly twisted together in unexpected ways and delivered with demented fervor.
Moreover, the songs are crafted to create persistently dynamic tempos and energies that keep you on the edge of your seat. None of the songs stay in the same gear throughout, nor are they wedded to the same kind of moods. They’re alternately freakish and frenetic, dismal and demented, venomous and vicious. The music is part wolfpack, part lurching ghoul, part barroom brawl. It scampers, gallops, pounds, slithers, crawls, and rocks out so hard you might think you’re head will come off and bounce off the walls.
Dismal, moaning chords and twisted, queasy leads trade places with high-boil tremolo riffs and fan-fare like bursts of braying melody. Murderously grim one moment, it’s boisterously chaotic the next. It sounds dangerous all the time.
Sitting still isn’t a viable option. Getting knocked off-balance is a much greater risk than boredom (which really is no risk at all). Yet to add one more accolade to all these others, the songwriting is so well-done that as delirious as the experience is, the changes within the songs don’t feel forced. It just sounds instead like this crew have found their style, which is as comfortable to them as their own skin, even if it makes the listener feel like they’re riding an electric chair.
The music is also produced in a way that suits these songs to a T. It delivers a sound that’s electrifyingly immediate, and it astutely bridges the gap between razor-sharpness and filthy grit. All the component pieces are clearly discernible, but they combine in a way that nevertheless sounds rough and poisonous. There’s just enough distortion and reverb, but not too much. It’s a fine balancing act.
And because all the component pieces stand out in the mix, let’s tick them off: The ever-changing drumwork is remarkably vibrant and powerful. The rock-crushing bass presence is massive. The riffs and leads change in tone just like much else about the music, ranging from heavy and harrowing to gleefully lunatic, and there are some truly berserker solos waiting for you (especially the one that erupts near the end of the closing track).
And the vocals, which are the least death-metal thing about the music, are the kind of raw, red-eyed, utterly wild punk yells that authentically sound full of fight and fury. There’s still a kind of dynamism in all this vocal vehemence, too — in the sense that they range from furiously pissed-off to frighteningly unhinged in the violence of their delivery.
Last but not least, while pandemonium lives within this album, it’s also paradoxically a well-oiled machine. As mentioned earlier, there’s sharp execution in all the twists and turns, even if the overall impact seems like… a trip to Bedlam.
Panoptic Horror will be released by Edged Circle Productions on September 14th on CD and vinyl LP formats. A limited cassette version is being released in cooperation with Morbid Skull Records. It includes cover art by the great Mariusz Lewandowski.
And with that, dive headlong into our premiere stream of this hellishly enjoyable new album below.