Pantheïst, The Drowning, Phantom Droid – LIVE

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Pantheïst, The Drowning, Phantom Droid
The Pit, Newport
22/03/2024
Live Review by Simon Black
Live Photography by Paul Hutchings

It’s a Friday night in Newport, and I’ve finally broken my three month dry spell of attending gigs. Believe it or not, the last one was the same headliner over in Fuel in Cardiff, and the fact that a repeat show in less than three months is enough to drive me out of my reverie says something about the pull of this band. But we will get to Pantheïst shortly… 

I haven’t been to this venue before, and it’s an unusual choice for the line-up of this calibre, but better to fill an underground concrete cellar, than risk a half empty room, but it’s clearly a problem as each act needs time to set up and swap their gear, so the running schedule goes to hell in a hand cart in very short order.

Swindon’s Phantom Droid have the challenge of opening the show for two well-established acts, which is no mean feat at the best of times. These youthful chaps are very, very fresh off of the blocks, with only a four-track EP to their names to date (now a year old). Unfortunately, the lack of experience shows a little, as sadly when you get on stage that late, as the opener you need to do the honourable thing and cull the set to allow things to get things back on track. Musically they are an eclectic blend of Psychedelia and Doom which they certainly play with energy and enthusiasm, with frontman James Hammerlock coming across as the Black Metal lovechild of Arthur Brown and manages to contort himself into a formidable display of shapes, which is remarkably impressive given that the stage requires any cats to be quadruple amputees prior to any swinging. The sound mix isn’t in their favour either, but experience will no doubt iron this energetic bunch and the frontman wins us all round with his performance.

https://www.facebook.com/phantomdroid

There’s a lot of love for local boys The Drowning in these parts, and they’ve been grinding out their powerful brand of Melodic, Doomy Death Metal for the best part of twenty years. That said, they don’t seem to have been too active of late, although given the double (and indeed, in two cases quintuple) duties the members have in other well-established acts it’s perhaps not surprising. However, they are here now, and it’s very nice to see them again. By the time they’ve managed the challenging changeover, the band tear into their set and rapidly take the roof off, which is just what we were hoping for. The whole band has a tight and professional presence, but all eyes are on singer Matt Small, whose performance tonight is controlled and electrifying, although he’s almost cuddly and friendly in between songs once that voice gets going, every head in the room is going for it for the duration of their performance. Sadly, they had to trim the set to keep the timing on track, but they definitely left us wanting more. There’s a new album in the works, so this feels like a warmup for a proper comeback, but to be honest there aren’t any kinks to iron out, and these boys nailed it tonight. Welcome back.

https://www.facebook.com/DrowningWales

Pantheïst rather blew me away at the fag end of 2023 at a show at Fuel in Cardiff, where to be brutally honest, I wasn’t actually there to see them [waves to Ofnus]. So, three months later, here I am again and hoping that the same trick can be pulled off twice. Tonight, it’s all about their freshly minted “Kings Must Die” EP, which has seen the band reinvent themselves for probably about the fifth time in their career. That release doesn’t disappoint, and neither do the band tonight – despite being squeezed onto a stage that makes the one at Fuel seem like a barn and distracted by some frankly irritating didi-Goths up front, whose insistence in talking loudly to each other in-between songs was quite frankly disrespectful. 

The big enemy tonight though, is time. Doom Metal needs to take its time and build the mood, and it’s clear everyone is in a rush to get started as the ever-slipping schedule has eaten thirty minutes away, and as they come on close to 10.15 p.m. you can tell people are checking their watches in concern for catching the last train home. So rushed in fact, that frontman Kostas Panagiotou doesn’t even have time to finish donning his trademark dog collar to his cassock, thereby depriving me of the opportunity to crack the ‘Vicar of Dolby’ gag I have been fermenting to include in a review of them somewhere. Oh, wait… 

But when they hit the stage, oh my word. Being constrained onto the tiny space seems to create a level of intensity I have not seen before, and despite the limitation, the band give it their all with a physicality and energy that is truly gripping, and all eyes are on the demented facial contortions of singer / keyboardist Panagiotou as the band let rip. Until, that is, Linda Dumitru turns it all up to eleven. I’ve waxed lyrical before about how her soprano voice has really elevated this band’s sound to a new level, but the inherent contradiction of such a grand and operatic delivery in a sweaty concrete box cannot be understated. Power, performance, energy and a voice that can crack concrete – it’s quite exceptional, and it shuts the didi-Goths right the hell up, and quite right too.

Having been bombarded with my endless playing of the new EP at home, my teenage daughter has been asking why a rock band has an opera singer, and I am reminded of something Bruce Dickinson said on the live recording of their “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” tour back in the 80’s. Facing at the time a backlash from the press and hardcore fans regarding their decision to use keyboards on that album cycle, his answer was simply “Because we thought it sounded good”, and that’s a valid answer here tonight. Metal fans do resist change, but Pantheïst are all about pushing the boundaries, which is the essential difference between being a genuine artist and seeing what happens, versus commercially trying to write formulaic stuff that people statistically like, but totally lacks soul. Sometimes it’s a miss, sometimes not, but this decision is a very palpable hit. Give me experimentation any day, and you can take your AI and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine whilst you are at it…

The sheer volume of the show was frankly ear-shattering, and even with properly and expensively defended lugholes, my tinnitus is taken to new levels and somehow spreads to my kidneys, which are still reverberating the morning after. Because that ladies and gents, is how you blow the roof off of a venue.

https://www.facebook.com/Pantheistuk

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Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. Photography the possession of Pual Hutchings. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

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Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of [user_login] and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.