PAN.THY.MONIUM — Khaooohs & Kon-Fus-Ion (review)

PAN.THY.MONIUM — Khaooohs & Kon-Fus-Ion album cover Album · 1996 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Hearing the first few moments of Khaooohs and Kon-Fus-Ion can be pretty jarring for some listeners. A cavernous down-tuned doom metal riff is met with a guitar solo you’d normally hear in a 12-bar blues song at the local pub; it’s a weird combination and doesn’t seem like it should work, yet it does. And that’d might as well be the summary for Pan.Thy.Monium’s music: they play shit that shouldn’t work and somehow does. One of the easiest pitfalls avant-garde metal bands often fall victim to is putting way too much random stuff in their songs without accounting for the actual songwriting quality. Luckily, I can say with utmost confidence that Khaooohs and Kon-Fus-Ion doesn’t fall into this trap. The first two tracks - which take up the majority of the record with their epic lengths - are incredibly adventurous while knowing when to break up the insanity to take a breather. For instance “The Battle of Geeheeb” periodically lets soaring guitar solos take center-stage, most of which are highly melodic and inspired by traditional 80s metal. Everytime the album threatens to fly off the handle, the band manage to find ways to keep the experience grounded.

Then again, I suppose this isn’t much of a surprise given the band’s leading songwriter, who happens to be legendary musician and producer Dan Swano. At this point, his name was already a seal of quality in the progressive death metal realm; in fact, his 40-minute one-song masterwork Crimson would be released the same year as Khaooohs and Kon-Fus-Ion, merely a month apart. So it’s no wonder that the songwriting here is as focused as it is experimental. Getting back to the music, “Thee-Pherenth” is an even more dense and difficult affair than the opener; wailing saxophones, off-kilter guitar riffs, strange time signatures, dark ambient passages, and even some hints of black metal are all found in this tune. There’s even a really catchy funk metal riff midway into the song, which reminds me a lot of that groovy riff found in Gorguts’ “Nostalgia”. But again, keeping in line with what I stated earlier, this off-the-wall moment is still met with a melodic guitar solo that slows things down and balances out the craziness. There are also some strange synthesizers that sound like a mix of Sadist’s Tribe album and classic Playstation music. The beauty of music like this is that - especially when you’re listening to it for the first time - the unpredictability of such experimental metal makes the experience genuinely exciting.

Finally, we get to those other two songs. However, “In Remembrance” isn’t really a song; in fact, it’s just one minute of silence. Perhaps it’s meant as an audio representation of a real-life “moment of silence”, although I do wish there was an actual outro. Meanwhile, “Behrial” might just be the most surprising thing on the record. Instead of another intense prog-death number, we’re greeted with calming, angelic keyboards; the weirdest thing about this track is that there’s nothing eerie or creepy going on in the background. The entire song is just… beautiful. It’s repetitive, but it puts you in a state of peace and relaxation with its otherworldly sense of atmosphere. It’s a perfect wind-down track after two very intense and complex epics, and it ends Khaooos and Kon-Fus-Ion on a wonderful note. Simply put, this band is a bit of an anomaly. I’m not sure what bands I’d even lump this music in with, and that’s what makes Pan.Thy.Monium so special; they were a singular, idiosyncratic group that allowed Dan Swano to get as creative and experimental as he could. If you enjoy avant-garde metal and are looking for something that's truly original and compelling in its many oddities, you can’t go wrong here.
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