Panchiko – “Deathmetal” (2000)

Matt Rushford, Living Arts Editor

I will start my review of this EP with this: despite only being four tracks, the story behind Panchiko is quite deep, and I certainly wouldn’t have listened to them prior to learning the backstory behind the group. Despite this extended play being released over twenty years ago by an unsigned group out of Nottingham, Panchiko has managed to resurface as an example of how the mixture of indie rock, electronic music, and aesthetics from the 1990s came together to make something beautiful.

Panchiko was formed in 1997 by a group of childhood friends in England, and the band claims that they used cheap engineering and recording technology. The band released their album “Deathmetal” in 2000 and reportedly made 30 copies of the album to be distributed around. Despite the name “Deathmetal”, let it be known that the album actually isn’t metal, or really about death. Maybe this confusion with their EP name is what led to their disbanding a year after “Deathmetal” was released, leading the group to fall into total obscurity.

In 2016, an anonymous user posted a rotted version of the EP online, which gained traction for the glitchy effects added along to the original mix. The user claimed they found the album in a thrift store, demanding for more information. Over time, people online got into contact with the group to find more information about the project. 

After the group was rediscovered, the album was released and remastered; it is now available on all streaming platforms, a much more accessible in the modern age. The official remaster was released in February of this year, four years after the album was uploaded to the internet and almost twenty years after its initial release.. Three additional tracks were added alongside the newly remastered tracks from the original recording process, including the original rotted tracks from the anonymous leak, so you can get an idea of what they sound like. 

Sonically, the clear sound of the remaster is much better than the rotted version, which probably shouldn’t surprise anybody unless you are avidly into glitch music. The influences of 90’s art rock and psychedelia run deep here, clearly influenced by groups like Radiohead, Portishead, and Sparklehorse among others. While it may be dated, the atmospheric and downtempo approach kept the songs in this extended play sitting after twenty years from their original release. The continued interest in groups like Radiohead and the art-pop genre also makes the remastering of “Deathmetal” fit the current day and age.

Despite the brevity, Pachiko has clearly made an impression on its listeners, with the titular track “D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L” providing a beautiful introduction to the album, with swooning vocals, record scratches and sampling covering the background of the first track of the album. The second track “Stabiliser for Boys” is a bit harsher, with warped guitars and messy drumming setting down the background for this track. The vocalist, only known by the name Owain sings aimlessly throughout the track as he kind of does throughout this whole project. Owain’s aimless lyrics combined with the downtempo bass track really work together. 

Deathmetal isn’t perfect obviously, but its flaws and its homely background give the album a special quality that’s hard to obtain by a major label record release. This isn’t necessarily a neg on major-label albums, but it goes to show that you don’t need to be on top of the world to release a great album. Sometimes you just need to be with your buds and work with a great idea. Panchiko wasn’t made to last this long of a time, but its roots and creativity have given it another chance in the spotlight. “Deathmetal” is certainly still fitting for people looking for something new and lush to listen to.