It usually takes a moment for a new band to get its footing. A couple of EPs in and the idea and visions take on a more solid form, the structures of the tracks appear more solid and just the overall result arrives with a sense of coherence and continuity. Panegyrist however did not need to take that moment, and their debut album coming out through I, Voidhanger sounds as if it is coming from avant-garde black metal veterans. Granted, some of the participants in this band are not new to the field, as is the case with Marcello Szumowski, who has previously participated in Inferno‘s latest hellish album, Gnosis Kardias. But the result still remains impressive.
The band’s debut record, Hierurgy, translating roughly to “holy work,” finds Panegyrist projecting an expanding vision that encapsulates the various aspect of forward thinking black metal. It is an album that through its duration stays elusive, morphing from one stylistic aspect to the next, but offering a coherent narrative between the individual parts. Especially when Panegyrist deliver their longer songs, which span between 9 and 13 minutes, they dive deep and explore all the different aspects and facades of their sound.
There is a number of different pathways that avant-garde black metal bands can take. It can be a work of technical aptitude and experimentation, or it can be filled with electronic and industrial influences. For Panegyrist, it is an exercise in balance. On one hand, the band takes on atmospheric elements, producing moments of pure ritualism and ethereal grandeur. The intro to the album sets this tone, with the chanting vocals forming the sonic landscapes, and the percussion granting the pace to this processional march. But, then there is also the dissonant edge that creeps into the structures. Influenced by Voivod‘s schizoid riffology that bands like Ved Buens Ende introduced in black metal, the bitter touch of Panegyrist is fully exposed. “Idylls of the Cave” features this cyclothymic nature, while “To Quicken The Stone” displays a merge between atmosphere and dissonance. Resulting in a mysterious and sinister moment, it displays the volatile nature of the band even when operating in a more stripped down scenery.
At the same time, there is an underlying epic perspective that the band appears to bring into play. There is a definite leaning towards Bathory‘s perspective and also Emperor‘s huge influence on black metal, with a hint of Arcturus’ bizarre playfulness (especially the melodic parts with clean vocals). When considering also the technical aptitude that Panegyrist displays in this context, the endeavour is moving closer to the final two Emperor records, especially when you experience the virtuoso solos in “Ophidian Crucifix.” And yet, with this epic perspective comes also the more surprising element of this record, which is no other than melody. Panegyrist does not rely only on dissonance and understands the power that catharsis can bring to the tracks. “Idylls of the Cave” features that mentality, with the band adding a bit of paranoia to the otherwise harmonious moments. And it makes the grand moments of this record, as the ending of the title track, that much more effective.
Hierurgy is an album that encapsulates the major elements of black metal in general, not simply its avant-garde tendencies. And it is an amazing balancing act from Panegyrist, simply because they are able to remain focused and produce a record that is not fragmented in its various pieces. It would be nice to see an additional layer of experimentation, either with the band diving more into the ambient territory or incorporating elements outside of metal, but considering this is just their first album, one could not ask for much more.