Empyrium – Into the Pantheon (Prophecy Productions)

Sunday, 6th October 2013
Rating: 8/10

In terms of neo-classical folk, Empyrium gets the most attention from our fair and beloved scene. Their mid-90’s output (i.e. Songs of Moors and Misty Fields) can be viewed as a sort of a building block from what would arrive via the Cascadian black metal scene, albeit performed with far more care and ingenuity. They’ve since gone all-acoustic and classical, but Into the Pantheon captures all phases of the band’s career during their first-ever live performance, which took place on June 11, 2011.

Main men Schwadorf (guitars) and Helm (keyboards, vocals) are joined by a veritable who’s-who in the European dark/atmospheric world, with luminaries since as Alcest’s Neige, Les Discret’s Fursy Tessyier, and Dornenreich’s Eviga helping provide additional instrumentation and being a part of the backing band. They each blend in seamlessly, though, so their presence is minimized in sake of the song. The haunting acoustic elements of “The Days Before the Fall” and “Where At Night the Wood Grouse Plays” captures the depth and allure of Empyrium’s neo-folk aura, with carefully plucked guitars and violins.

“Mourners” gets the nod as the most metal cut, probably because it comes from the aforementioned Songs of Moors album, yet it is the bleak “Dead Winter Days” and flowing “Many Moons Ago” that embody Empryium’s grasp on the folk template. For a band without a proper studio album since 2002’s Weiland, Empyrium’s influence is presently all over the black metal scene in Europe and in America. Therefore, consider Into the Pantheon the proper introduction to a band whose influence is all too understated.

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