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Pantheist Live at St Giles in the Fields

Pantheist Live at St Giles in the Fields

Feb 1, 2012

Despite being fresh off an 11 hour flight from Johannesburg, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to watch what in my opinion is one of the UK’s top Doom Metal bands play in an 18th century church.

I’m not sure how a Funeral Doom band managed to convince a christian establishment to allow them to use their sanctified edifice for a gig (apparently the band was told by another church that ‘riff raff’ are not welcome – so much for Jesus helping the poor), but I am sure glad that they did. I can’t think of a better space to listen to dark, atmospheric music.

Pantheist was first started by chief songwriter Kostas Panagiotou in Belgium 12 years ago. The band relocated to the UK in 2004 and have released four albums thus far.  My first introduction to them (and Doom in general) came last year at their last UK show, and I’ve quietly been keeping tabs ever since.

Located right opposite the Intrepid Fox off Denmark Street, St Giles church won’t be strange to London’s metal heads.  Despite this it was still a rather strange sight to see 300 long haired head bangers queuing outside this house of God in their Saturday night best.

After a short queue I headed inside, eager to see how they had made use of the space.  I quickly headed to the balcony and took up a position just in front of the PA.  Not only did I have a great view of the band, but I could watch the crowd sitting (rather peacefully) in the pews.  The band had set up on the altar and choral music was playing as thin tendrils of smoke drifted out from the stage.  The crowd was almost totally quiet and the whole effect somewhat chilling.

After a short wait the lights dimmed and the band calmly walked onto the stage.  Midway through the first song I glanced down at the congregation who were in thrall of the band, most of them gently nodding in time to the music.  I loved the contrast with the furious nodding normally happening at metal shows.

The band was tight, and the sound in the church was excellent.  The guitar tone was great, the bass could be heard clearly in the mix and Kostas vocals were skillfully delivered.  The drums sounded particularly good as they really seemed to stand out at the perfect moments,  creating contrast between the quieter parts and the heavy riffs.  Another great surprise was the introduction of vocals by guitarist Pepijn van Houwelingen, which I thought were superb.

Criticisms…I only have one.  A part of me wished that the band had walked out in black, hooded robes.  It would have created an incredible atmosphere.  But then again, I don’t like gimmicks in music either and its probably just the part of me that loves a bit of cheese talking.

Regrettably I had to leave an hour later and missed the end of the set, but as I walked out the church I got a final glimpse from the ground floor…and no wonder the audience was in thrall.  The view was spectacular, the band silhouetted against the altar, partially obscured by rising smoke.  Definitely a night to remember.

If you are partial to anything heavy or atmospheric I strongly recommend checking these guys out.  Their latest album is particularly good and you don’t have to be into heavy music to enjoy it either.

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