PANDEMONIUM - The Ancient Catatonia (OLD TEMPLE - CD 2013)
When speaking about such albums as “The Ancient Catatonia” I must go back first to the times, when I just started listening to metal – and that was around 1991. Back in those days the music market in Poland was still trying to build something after the communism’s fall in 1989 and there wasn’t anything like copyright law or something like that in the beginning. We – metalheads – have been then blessed by many pirate companies, which were copying hundreds of metal albums “from the West”; something what wasn’t given to the Polish metal fans in the 80’s. If one wanted to buy original version of the tape, licensed to Metal Mind for instance, he must have paid twice or three times as much as for those pirates, so basically every metalhead’s collection was filled with the “illegal” cassettes. So was mine. My first original tapes, which I have bought, were of the Polish bands, as these cassettes were not as expensive… So, I was really digging what Carnage Records or Baron Records have been releasing. Sure, many of these bands were not as good as those from US or UK, but that didn’t matter – I, as a 12-13 years old kid – had a chance to get to know some great music anyway, even if I had no idea what the underground actually was. I remember I was listening to lot tapes, of bands like Betrayer, Hate, Christ Agony, Armagedon, Ghost, Vader, Quo Vadis, Violent Dirge, Hazael… and that was something great. Another name, which really became an integral part of my youth was Pandemonium and their “The Ancient Catatonia” cassette, which Baron has released in 1992. Arrghh, the music from this cassette was something way darker and sinister than anything else I have heard so far – I got to know them even before Samael! And I guess Pandemonium – along with Christ Agony and Taranis – was the first band, which could have been called black metal, which I have listened to in my life. That cassette, which I had back then, has been listened to so many times, that it basically was ruined after some time, so for many years I had no chance to hear “The Ancient Catatonia” – except a CDR copy, which someone did for me around 2003. I actually hoped a couple of years ago that I’ll have a chance to buy an original Baron CD version, but that turned out to be way too expensive for me. Later I hoped that if someone re-released “Devilri” demo on vinyl then “The Ancient Catatonia” will also get such an awesome treatment… but no. But my waiting has finally finished one morning, when I got an e-mail announcing that Old Temple will release “The Ancient Catatonia” again on CD!!!!!! Ha, I didn’t hesitate even for a second and putted my order for this album. Now I am listening to it over and over again and have that fleshback memory of my youth and all those good old days… and it feels like it was yesterday. But the greatest thing is that this music from “The Ancient Catatonia” hasn’t aged at all, it still sounds so wonderfully fresh and amazingly good… I have then no doubt that definitely this album belongs to the best materials ever recorded on the Polish territory. This is our classic!
I must say that Old Temple did a very good job with the re-release of “The Ancient Catatonia”. Not only the CD itself sounds just fantastic, but also the booklet looks great. It has the original lyrics plus some old photos… but it also contains quite few scans from the old Polish fanzines, which had interviews with Pandemonium. Similar thing has been done for the “Devilri” LP, actually, but it definitely is a great thing and a killer supplement to the music. OK, if anyone foreign will put his hands on this CD, he may feel a bit sad, as all interviews are in Polish, but who would care about that? If you cannot read anything and don’t wanna learn this language, then focus on the music!
Pandemonium has always been called “a Polish Samael”. When listening to “The Ancient Catatonia” one can surely hear why, as the atmosphere of the music is very similar to such cult LPs as “Worship Him” or “Blood Ritual”, so are some of the riffs, which are alike to the Suiss’ cult style, mainly focused on relatively slow or mid paced tempos, having this excellent hypnotic, almost trance feeling, when the songs are built by long, instrumental passages, played by guitars mainly (some additional instruments also appear, but rather sporadically) and then it turns out that sometimes the vocals are like an addition and you’ll almost not notice their presence, focusing on those riffs so much. I must say that I like it a lot, especially that the quality of these riffs and arrangements, as well as of all songs’ structures is just spotless… And as for those comparisons to Samael… well, there surely are many similarities, no doubt, but at the same time Pandemonium has also its original style, you’ll notice it when listening to “The Ancient Catatonia” carefully… The music is often more melodic and also the appearance of such additional instruments as violin or acoustic guitars gives it more personal touch. Besides, another obvious source of influence would I guess be Celtic Frost – just listen to “The Black Arts” and tell me what do you think… Meanwhile such “Winter” is probably the most atmospheric song of all, but its dark music doesn’t feel too soft or something, it is still a very good song. And “Different Part” is opened by the riff, which is a classic doom metal riff, originating in the good old Black Sabbath!
I must say that even if the whole album is quite long – with almost an hour of music – it doesn’t feel so and it definitely is nothing boring or monotonous. What’s more, I can call the experience of listening to this music as some sort of journey, where every next song is kind of new place to visit. But it is almost impossible to choice your favourites from it. For sure “The Majesty” stands above the rest of the material as one of the best songs, with some epic parts in it and great arrangements, which use violin here and there. But I honestly think that the whole material is just even and every song has something incredibly good to offer. No fillers here, only killers!
For the end I must also point out that the production of “The Ancient Catatonia” is just fantastic. It – just as the whole material – also didn’t age at all, still sounds really good and I think I can say that the sound of this LP is one of the best of all Polish releases of that time. It is clean and powerful, but at the same time it has a nice raw and harsh edge, what gives a killer effect and helps the music to achieve a dark and eerie atmosphere. In many ways “The Ancient Catatonia” is just a perfect record, really… I cannot see anything what would be done bad here, the music is perfect, the sound also, the whole artwork – ah just look at that killer logo and pentagram on it… and what about that evil looking Pazuzu figure (“…figure in black…” hehe) on the back cover? Fantastic stuff. I highly recommend you then getting this album right now, if you have a chance… and I hope that someone will think also about releasing its vinyl version at last!
Standout tracks: “The Majesty”, “Unholy Existence”, “The Black Arts”, “Winter”
Final rate: 95/100