From the first few minutes of Pantheon MMXIX by Ultar, you can already tell that this is a completely different beast from 2016’s Kadath. Building on their previous sound, they roll in clean vocals, more intricate songwriting, and a tighter production. Yet at the same time, they double down on the black metal elements; screams to make your soul shiver, and dissonant passages that take you back 20 years. With such an excellent follow up, it’s obvious that Ultar is a major player in the future of post-black-metal.
One notable improvement on this album are the heavy sections. This time, they are much more progressive, using interesting rhythms and straying from the constant blistering tremolo that permeated the previous album. The riffs are catchy and demand your attention, rather than simply forming the soundscape you expect from a black metal tune.
None of which is to say that the clean and ambient sections haven’t improved. They clearly have, with interesting and clever writing which, rather than simply communicating an emotional statement, also manage to do so with flair and aplomb. Layers of synths just add to the whole presentation. Overall, it seems the band’s musical mastery has increased significantly since Kadath.
Occasionally straying into soundtrack territory, the obvious horror themes of the album play out well, as in “Au Seuil.” This track wouldn’t be out of place as the intro song for the opening credits of a 90s horror flick. It brings to mind any number of odd surreal horror films, most notably for me, Brainscan, a movie whose soundtrack is as notable as the film itself (which despite being corny in the best ways, manages to hold up well even in 2019).
Ultimately, Pantheon MMXIX is an album that proves that Ultar know exactly what they are doing, and are here to stay. It’s also worth noting that despite this album’s improvements, Kadath was also excellent, and if you’ve never listened to it, you should rectify that in short order. The praise in this review is just a testament to how far they’ve come in a few short years, and somehow, I’m already excited for what they have up their sleeve for next time.