Swedish one-man black metal outfit Panphage first popped up on my radar last November when the mighty Nordvis released the project’s second full-length, Drengskapr. I dug that album’s mix of aggressiveness and melody quite a bit, so I was pretty excited to see that Nordvis was planning to reissue two of the band’s previous cassette-only releases: their debut full-length Storm and the Ginnheilagr split with Thul. While both records are somewhat imperfect, they nevertheless provide some interesting insight into how much the band has evolved in a short span of time, and for that reason they’re both definitely worth a listen.
Of the two, Storm is probably the stronger record. Released in 2015 but featuring songs written several years previous to that, the album’s mix of styles makes it sound like mainman Fjällbrandt was still trying to figure out his sound. “Storm” and “Sävgetens folk” both have a Viking-period Bathory feel to them, while “Vid kusten” hews a bit closer to black-and-roll territory. “Hemmavid” veers into folkier waters, while album highlights “Frusna varsel” and “Förfäder” both bring to mind Burzum, as does the 7-minute long ambient closing track “Fenomen,” which I could have done without.
Ginnheilagr, on the other hand, is hampered a bit by the fact that it isn’t a traditional split. Thul contributes four tracks of dark ambient, which alternate with Panphage’s three songs. The way the record is sequenced, the seven tracks end up running together to make for a single, 42-minute piece of continuous music. It ends up being a lot of dark ambient to get through, but Panphage’s tracks are uniformly excellent, especially “Ginnheilug goð,” which might be my favorite thing they’ve ever done.