Panzerchrist - Battalion Beast - 2006 - Neurotic Records
1. The Lean Black Crusade 2. The Gods, They Do Not Give Us Long 3. He Is Dead Who Will Not Fight 4. Infants' Graves 5. Weep No More 6. Flame of the Panzerchrist 7. Lumps of Rotting Clay 8. War in the North 9. The Spirit of Soldiers
In a band’s checklist of priorities, having a pithy name is almost as important as having the band at all. Heavy Metal has taken this tenet to heart, producing both the poignantly indicative—Fates Warning, Dream Theater—and the ungodly—Anal Blast, God Dethroned, etc. Few bands, though, have managed to sum up both ends of the spectrum as cleverly as Denmark’s Panzerchrist. Militant and confrontational, this troop has been churning ahead for a dozen-plus years now, with five straight LP’s in the past decade.
Their lyrical themes deal with the grime and grit of warfare, with songs supported by well-placed battle and film samples and driven by Killerich’s mechanical, dependable drumming. On 2006’s ‘Battalion Beast’, this general tradition is maintained, but fans expecting the standard tank shell dosage of death metal carnage are in for a bit of a surprise.
To begin: Bo’s vocals (well, let’s be frank here, his vocal effects) have always been and still are very fitting for Panzerchrist’s thunderous assault, but there are now some harsher, higher screams to compliment his lows and help give ‘Battalion Beast’ its feral character.
Another, more subtle shift towards a surprisingly black metal undercurrent helps complete this shift in approach. Initially, Panzerchrist’s patent brutality overwhelm the senses, but after a time the keyboards begin to assert themselves and the effect of the tremolo picking begins to sink in. On their own, they would be only embellishments, but when combined with those new vocals, tracks like ‘War in the North’ turn into half-tempo Naglfar, and ‘Infants’ Graves’ an homage to Vital Remains.
Not every song is that experimental, though; ‘Flame of the Panzerchrist’ rages on like an Abrams at full-throttle and should assuage the worries any old-school fans would have that Panzerchrist are getting bored with their formula.
The majority of ‘Battalion Beast’ falls in between these two positions: aggressive death metal, but tinged with enough tremolo riffing vitriol to avoid stagnation. In some instances, such as the opener ‘The Lean Black Crusade’, the effort to blend the two results in some slightly awkward riff progressions, but there are no total duds to be found here.
And besides, there are hordes of straight-up death metal bands to be found, so Panzerchrist’s efforts to branch out a little are appreciated. Particularly of note is their longest studio track to date, ‘The Spirit of Soldiers’, where the band deftly handles both epic length and surprisingly sentimental melodic themes.
For all the talk of change, Panzerchrist ultimately remain a reliable stalwart in the death metal field. ‘Battalion Beast’ is a powerful blast and a satisfying one, reaffirming the band’s consistent presence and authority. In sum, and to paraphrase the litany that closes each track of this album: Christ, thy name is indeed Panzer.
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