It’s cold. Very cold. Winter has definitely arrived in the Welsh Capital. Scurrying across to Fuel from the civic centre, I skirt through the throngs of bright-eyed children and their parents as they are drawn like moths to a flame towards the winter wonderland, willing to pay over the odds for fairground rides, ice skating and sweetly flavoured snacks.
I arrive at Womanby Street, a sanctuary within the city and head into the darkness.
Pantheist – Edenfall – Pyrogaric
Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff – 4 December 2022
Words: Paul Hutchings
Photography: Georgia Brittain
Tonight, Fuel has a slightly macabre feel. Dark and melancholic music is on the agenda. A small but enthusiastic audience has gathered to pay homage to one of the UK’s premier funeral doom outfits, the legendary Pantheist, who are playing their first-ever show on Welsh soil and their first for three years.
The British/Belgian Funeral doom merchants should surely be bigger than they are, having been plying their set of misery for nearly a quarter of a century. A fair smattering of shirts sporting the band’s name suggests that the band’s return to live music is highly anticipated. So it proves.
Although they are hitting the stage over 30 minutes late, and with the curfew rushing toward them, Pantheist don’t rush anything. Their songs are long, an intertwined combination of frontman and founder Kostas Panagiotou’s rich Roland keyboard and crushing riffs, which meld in a heady, almost spiritual concoction which leaves the venue spinning. Most are content to nod along, but a few enthusiastic souls clearly need more and headbang with some ferocity.
It’s only a five-song set, but in the hour or so that Pantheist play, they provide a reminder of why they are revered in the funeral doom circles. The music is intoxicating and enchanting, and whilst there isn’t much movement on the small stage, Panagiotou presents a crazed, possessed figure in his priest’s robe and colour. He’s flanked by the hooded figure of guitarist Atanas Kyurkchiev and the more usual attire of bassist Matthew Strangis.
Behind them, the reliable drumming of Fanel Lefterache provides the backbone of the band’s cinematic and atmospheric music.
For a band who had decided to retire to being a studio project, this is a wonderful reminder of how live music can inspire. Opener Control & Fire is immense and sonically intoxicating, and the evening continues in the same vein. Despite the surroundings, and let’s face it, the music needs a wider expanse than the back room of a small rock club, Pantheist fill every nook and cranny with their sound.
It’s a welcome return after those three years, and with their last album, Closer To God, still resonating, it’s an evening of rare opportunity to catch a seminal band of the last two decades up close and personal.
Main support is provided by Cheltenham gothic doom quintet Edenfall. The band have been around for over a decade, and with two albums and a new single to draw from, they get their set going after a troubling technical problem.
They play an interesting mix of styles, ranging from soaring symphonics to crushing Black Metal passages. Death growls contrast with the operatic vocals of Clare Webster (last seen at Fuel with her Yylva project). New single The Wild Hunt slots into a setlist drawn from Under Sultry Moon and Velvet Skies and debut Forever Fallen. It’s Dark Wings, Dark Words that stands out most, with some ferocious mid-section work getting the crowd a little more engaged.
With five members crammed on stage, there isn’t room for much movement, but there is some epic headbanging and Webster’s hands reach for the sky on occasion to emphasise her vocals. At times the sound doesn’t help. The infamous muddy mix of Fuel appears to be an issue throughout the evening, but Edenfall are seasoned musicians, and they power through their set with confidence.
It’s a later-than-planned start for Newport psych duo Pyrogaric, but despite a faltering start, Keelan (guitar) and Jamey-Leigh (vocals and drums) do a sterling job of opening the evening.
Their doom-edged music may not match the power of the other two bands, but the fuzzy guitar work and simple drum patterns combined with the haunting vocals promise much for this young duo who are gigging around South Wales regularly.